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Cheers for Chelonia 2022!

Feb. 10 marked the return of the Chelonia Dance Concert to the Laura Aldrich Neese Theater. The annual Beloit performance was held via YouTube Live in 2021. This year, though, the show returned to its original venue. To maintain COVID-19 safety, dancers donned masks throughout the performance. Furthermore, audience members were encouraged to socially distance themselves when selecting seats in the Neese Theater. Despite this, the opening night crowd nearly filled the auditorium. It was heartwarming to see students, faculty, and community members come together to support Beloit’s dancers!

Directed by Dance professor Chris Johnson, the show featured eight dance routines, just like the 2021 program. Five of the featured routines premiered in November at the December Dance Concert. The returning dances included “Heartstring Theory,” “into cycle of consciousness,” “4 ½ Years Earlier,” “A Different Age,” and “CORPS.” All five of the routines chosen from the December Dance lineup were student choreographed. The three additional routines were respectively choreographed by Johnson, adjunct Dance professor Gina T’ai, and guest choreographer Erim Kilmurray. 

Chelonia begins with T’ai’s piece, “sub vantage,” which is an innovative routine featuring student dancers Charline Davis-Alicea, Emma Logas, and Adrianna Terrell. Three songs are used throughout the piece, two of which are alternative songs from the 1980s. Shelbi Wilkin designed costumes for the show, and for “sub vantage,” it is evident that the songs influenced her designs, which reflect punk fashion of the early 1980s. The upbeat, carefree vibe of this routine served as an interesting point of juxtaposition for the next two dances.

“Heartsing Theory” and “into cycles of consciousness,” were respectively choreographed by students Grace Scott and Kelli Badgley, are both solemn pieces. Scott’s routine is performed by herself and fellow dancers Ava Parr and Serafina Tassi. Badgley’s routine was a solo. Once again, the mood shifts with Emily O’Brien’s routine, “4 ½ Years Earlier.” This sensual hip-hop routine is briefly, yet skillfully, performed by O’Brien and Tassi. 

The program even featured a lengthy dance that employed comedic choreography. Guest artist Erin Kilmurray’s “Knockout II” featured student performers Badgley, Davis-Alicea, Terrel, and Xavier Qin Youngdale. Much of the choreography resembled stage combat and helped to tell a clear story of competing dancers. While choreographed by Kilmurry, the four dancers also contributed to the creation of the piece.

The final three dances were all interpretive. “A Different Age,” choreographed by student Lilian Lopez, was a returning piece from December Dance. Lopez does not appear in the routine herself; Mateo Marek, Scott, and Tassi dance as Lopez plays piano. “CORPS,” choreographed by Davis-Alicea, features a large ensemble that worked collaboratively to create the piece. Kidist Demisse, Ahnika Franklin, Anna Lehne, Parr, Lijah Smith, Tassi, Alekzandria Taylor, and Trang Tran utilize the entire stage to bring the routine to life. The final dance in the show was choreographed by Johnson, and is entitled “Shredding.” It features dancers Badgley, Davis-Alicea, Logas, O”Brien, and Terrell. “Shredding” served as a strong finale due to its empowering feminist undertones.

Chelonia has been a long-time Beloit event, so its return to the Neese Theater in person was a huge deal. It was excellent to see how many people got out to show their support for not only the dancers and everyone involved, but for the performing arts in general. Performers work endlessly to perfect their craft and to entertain people, so it is great to know how many people still got out to see Chelonia after all these years. Chelonia performed Feb. 10, 11, 12 at 7:30PM, as well as a matinee at 2PM on Feb. 13.

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