Directors of Brown Bag let students take the reins

The 27 dancers in the Division of Dance’s annual Brown Bag Series lifted the audience’s spirits in the midst of midterms in their opening performance on Monday.

“They’re not required to do this,” Artistic Director Myra Woodruff said. “Their enthusiasm is what propels them to do this.”

Brown Bag is unlike any other SMU dance performance. Every piece is choreographed by the students, and the rehearsal process is only four weeks from start to finish.

“It’s late hours – long hours, so it’s rather impressive that they want to do it,” Woodruff said.

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SMU dancers take the Brown Bag stage.

The directors typically bring in professional choreographers for other SMU performances. Senior dance major Kat Robertson said the dancers spend months rehearsing before putting the pieces in front of an audience.

“Sometimes the pieces can get a little stale, so it’s kind of hard to keep them alive,” Robertson said. “But with Brown Bag, you kind of make it up and you do it.”

Students interested in choreographing for Brown Bag hold auditions and choose the dancers that will perform in the pieces. Each choreographer has two weeks to perfect their dances before showing them to an adjudication panel of dance professors. The panel chooses which pieces are refined enough to be in the actual performance, Robertson said.

Both Robertson and junior dance major Katie Hopsicker choreographed and performed original pieces. They enjoy the freedom that their directors give them in Brown Bag.

“It’s really student run, so it’s really nice,” Hopsicker said. “We get lots of feedback and advice, but it’s nice that we can really pursue our own dreams and what we want for the dance.”

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Junior Katie Hopsicker makes music with her feet in her tap solo.

Woodruff enjoys seeing her students’ ideas become a reality.

“The best part to me is seeing their voices presented in the space,” Woodruff said. “This is the individual dancers’, individual choreographers’ voices – what they care about dancing about.”

Robertson said she could feel the energy going back and forth between the dancers and the audience during the performance.

“Always very excited energy from the dancers, and I think from the audience – especially first-years who have never been to the show before,” Robertson said. “Also, people just walking in and out of the space. I think it’s just, yeah, a lot of excited energy.”

Hopsicker said she believes Brown Bag is important because it is a more accessible way to share dance with the student population.

“It’s nice just to have students from different organizations and clubs that the dancers are involved in can come and support,” Hopsicker said. “People that don’t usually come to dance shows come and can watch dance, which is really nice.”

The Brown Bag Series will have their final performance on Friday at noon. The event is free to the public. For more information, please call 214-768-2787.