Valdosta Daily Times

October 3, 2012

Fresh Tracks: VSU Dance leaps into new territory

Dean Poling
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — For 11 of the Valdosta State University Repertory Dancers’ 26 years, Eric Brandt Nielsen and Catherine A. Schaeffer have presented choreography together.

This year, they are joined by a new choreographer, VSU Theatre & Dance faculty member Sarah Wildes Arnett, in the dance concert “Fresh Tracks” opening this week.

Audiences can expect a mix of dramatic dances and lighter dances, something to ponder and something to provoke a laugh. The show combines elements of ballet, modern, a bit of hip-hop.

Like past VSU Repertory Dancers concerts, “Fresh Tracks” offers new works from all three choreographers as well as the reprisals of two past works by Nielsen and Schaeffer.

For long-time audiences, these re-worked past dances are often treats. Audience members enjoy seeing the piece again, often recalling the students who performed the work previously in comparison with the newer performance. Or they may notice new steps, a few fresh tracks, added by the choreographer.

For example, last year, Schaeffer presented the dance “Long Before Us” as a duet. This year, she strikes up the same theme but triples it with “Intimate Echoes,” which features six dancers compared to the two in the 2011 piece. “‘Intimate Echoes’ is a contemporary dance reflecting on relationships and memories of relationships,” Schaeffer says in her choreographer’s notes. “All human connections experience changes as they pass through time and space. Within these bonds, we explore dynamic shifts that are both quiet and explosive, seeking resolution.”

Nielsen reprises “Time Out” which was created in 2003 and was performed last in 2006, the choreographer says. “We have restaged this patron’s favorite with new scenic and costume designs as well as updating certain choreographic sections,” Nielsen notes.

But the choreographers premiere new works.

Schaeffer’s “Axis” features an expansive cast of male and female dancers.

With his Music Analysis for Dancers class, Nielsen has created “Call of the Beat.” “Dancers worked together to create rhythmic patterns that were not only choreographed but were accompanied by live percussion and recorded music,” according to Nielsen’s notes.

Among “Beat’s” dancers is Sarah Wildes Arnett, who also offers two new choreographed pieces for Valdosta audiences.

“Fluttering Awake/Wash Over Me” features five dancers. “Habit of Change” owes thanks to their original casts in other locations, Arnett notes, for their “movement and creative inputs.”

In his notes as VSU Repertory Dancers’ founding director, Nielsen notes that Arnett recently completed her master of fine arts from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and earned her bachelor’s from Vanderbilt University.

With the Valdosta debuts of “Fluttering Awake/Wash Over Me” and “Habit of Change,” these works become part of the more than 200 pieces in the VSU Repertory Dancers repertoire, works that may appear again, in a new form, with new students, in the years to come.


Nielsen and dance students’ “Call of the Beat”. Cast: Sarah Wildes Arnett, Ariel Balla, Halle Biggs, Helen Brown, Makeda Bryce, DeVante Graham, Jonathan Gray, Marie Harper, Deroccius Harris, Jennifer Jackson, Robert B. McGaha, Raina Mitchell, Esmond Pickett, Rachelle Sanford, Kia Street, Sharia Stripling, Nicole Summerlin, Jesse Vickers. Costume design: Rebecca A. Huguet. Scenic design: Ruth Brandvik. Lighting design: Ellie Siegel.

Arnett’s “Fluttering Awake/Wash Over Me.” Cast: Marie Harper, Kelsey Johnson, Leah Kelly, Haley Sheppard, Larren Woodward. Costume design: Esther Iverson and Patrice Trower. Lighting design: Melanie Harkness.

Schaeffer’s “Axis.” Cast: DeVante Graham, Deroccius Harris, Darius Jackson, Robert McGaha, Caleb Spivey, Halle Biggs, Helen Brown, Makeda Bryce, Jennifer Jackson, Tehya Malone, Raina Mitchell, Rachelle Sanford, Marissa Shankle, Sharia Stripling, Jesse Vickers, Antoinette Williams. Music: Christopher Bailey. Costume design: Esther Iverson. Lighting design: Ellie Siegel.

Schaeffer’s “Intimate Echoes.” Cast: Esmond Pickett and Nicole Summerlin; Marissa Shankle and Darius Jackson; Makeda Bryce and Marie Harper. Music: Rachel Grimes. Costume design: Esther Iverson. Lighting design: Ruth Brandvik.

Nielsen’s “Time Out.” Cast: Karoline Holiday, Matty Hogan, Ben McGaha, Megan Stewart, Hannah Kortrey, Madeline Gruzien, Shadaijah Jackson, Haley Sheppard, Caleb Spivey, Kendra Stevens, DeVante Graham, Rocky Harris, Artise Newton. Costume design: Esther Iverson. Lighting design: Ruth Brandvik.

Arnett’s “Habit of Change.” Cast: Elizabeth Adams, Helen Brown, Darius Jackson, Kelsey Johnson, Kristen Keebler, Leah Kelly, Raina Mitchell, Esmond Pickett, Marissa Shankle, Sharia Stripling, Nicole Summerlin, Antoinette Williams. Costume design: Esther Iverson. Lighting design: Melanie Harkness.


VSU Repertory Dancers presents “Fresh Tracks.”

When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Oct. 4-6; 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 7.

Where: Sawyer Theatre, Valdosta State University Fine Arts Building, corner of Oak and Brookwood.

Reservations, more information: Call (229) 333-5973; or visit

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