Dance students at the University of St. Thomas will participate in a live performance on Friday, Sept. 11 at 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.
This isn’t a normal live performance, though, thanks to COVID-19. Since odd circumstances call for innovation, the students will perform their production, “IRIS,” from their homes via Zoom that will stream to YouTube Live. The performances can be watched here.
Mike Esperanza, prominent choreographer and friend of UST dance professor Jennifer Mabus, is the mastermind of the performance. In an email to the Celt Independent, Esperanza wrote he will use Open Broadcast Software to make the performance work somewhat like a TV news broadcast.
“It [the online performance] doesn’t replace stage performances but, with current circumstances, it reinvigorates the desire to perform to audiences near and far,” Esperanza wrote.
Esperanza choreographed and taught the UST dancers from his apartment in New York. He has dancers meticulously placing their cameras at different angles to add a “cinematic” element to the performance. Mabus said Esperanza also has students doing various creative things such as performing in a backyard, and putting tape over their web cameras to give a blurry effect.
Rehearsals for the performance ran long: Monday through Thursday, 6-9 p.m. for the past two weeks.
Senior dance major Anitra Danielle is grateful she has had the opportunity to continue dancing in the safety of her home, which she has nicknamed her “stage” now. Moreover, Danielle has enjoyed working with Esperanza.
“He gets down to business, yet, he has a great and funny side to him,” Danielle wrote in an email to the Independent.
Mabus said she is grateful her students get to experience working with someone like Esperanza.
“It’s kind of, ‘Kill two birds with one stone;’ not only do we have someone who helps with the technology [aspect of the performance], but they’re also getting to work with a pretty well-known choreographer in New York,” Mabus said.
That opportunity was something unexpected, Mabus noted, since UST’s dance department was just founded in 2019; she believes this performance will help put the department “on the map”.
Mabus and Esperanza both hope “IRIS” will inspire other dancers to continue, even during the pandemic.
“One thing that I would love to show with this is that dance is one of the arts that is struggling right now in a big way,” Mabus said, “but that it still has the power to connect people.”