Vitality, USF’s student-led contemporary dance company, has spent the last five weeks rehearsing all for one show. That one show, Illuminate, took place last Saturday and left many students with a newfound respect for dance. “It’s an opportunity for members of Vitality to showcase their choreography and show their passion for dance,” said Nyla Leonardi, the vice president of Vitality.
In a dark theater only lit by a few colorful stage lights, dancers jumped and sashayed across the stage in more than a dozen performances. Pieces varied widely: the initial piece,choreographed by Courtney Baclig, Hannah Chong and Leonardi, was set to “Two Weeks” by FKA Twigs and had the whole dance company on stage. Although it seems like 18 bodies would crowd a stage, they effortlessly moved together, flowing across the stage as a single unit. Other pieces featured as few as three dancers, such as “Worry” by Jack Garratt ft. Anderson .Paak, choreographed by Leonardi. Throughout the show, the crowd was left in awe by the dancers, who showed not only their technical skills by doing body lifts and numerous pirouettes, but also through the emotion they poured into each toe point, arm wave and other intricate movements.
“My favorite dance was the piece I choreographed because I put a lot of emotion into it,” said Dominique Dollenmayer, president of Vitality. (Dollenmayer is also a layout editor for the Foghorn.) She choreographed and performed alongside several dancers to the song “My Way” by Frank Sinatra, whose music she has a sentimental attachment to. “It was very bittersweet, because this was my second-to-last Illuminate. I’m already being emotional about leaving next year, because it’s been my community for the past three years.”
There were also a few guest performances in the show, including numbers from VarCity. VarCity is Vitality’s sister team and USF’s hip hop dance group. “A little under half of the people on Vitality are also on VarCity,” explained Dollenmayer, who also sits on the executive board of VarCity.
Students and friends of performers filled the theater seats, shouting and cheering names of loved ones throughout the show and holding up signs with messages of support. “Every year it’s a bigger and bigger audience, which is all we want. We want to show how much hard work we put into it, and have people appreciate that as well,” Leonardi said.
One such student was junior English major Julie Gentile, who came with flowers and a sign to support her girlfriend in Vitality for the third consecutive year. “I think it’s a great way to consume art that your peers are making,” she said. “Art in general makes me emotional, so I think dance is an amazing way to get that feeling. It’s amazing that they can tell a story with their body.”
For performers, the presence of family members was especially meaningful. “My mom came to the show, she flew up from San Diego. Hearing her yell out from the audience was the best part for me,” Leonardi said.
The show was a culmination of a year’s work of preparation and several weeks of intensive rehearsals, according to Leonardi. The executive board planned details such as the date, songs and rehearsal schedules prior to the beginning of the semester, according to Leonardi. “Once we got back for the spring semester, we had five weeks of rehearsals: six hours every Sunday and two hours every Thursday,” she said.
Vitality has kept the same name for the show since their first performance in 2013. One of the founders of Vitality, Megan Marabella ’16, shared her reasoning behind the name. “We named it Illuminate because Vitality was, and still is, aiming to shine light on the talent at USF, but also give contemporary dancers the space to share their own light,” she said.
Featured Photo: Sophomores, Cynthia Calderon, Jacqueline Hanson, and Courtney Baclig perform a dance choreographed by Mia Santor, ‘Searching For a Feeling’. Noelle McHenry/Foghorn