Kelly Fitzgerald '18

Dance Production, one of Occidental College’s oldest and most popular student-run clubs, returns to the Thorne Hall stage for its 68th annual show March 18-19. 

Showcasing the dancing talent of more than 350 Oxy students, Dance Production (affectionately known as Dance Pro) will put on three shows: Friday, March 18 at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, March 19 at 2 and 7:30 p.m. Tickets will be on sale in the Academic Quad March 14-18 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Evening show tickets are $5 for students, $8 for staff and faculty, and $10 for community members. Matinee tickets are $5 for everyone.

This year’s performance features 24 choreographers working in styles ranging from flamenco and ballet to hula kahiko and hip-hop. The 2016 choreographers include a good number of Dance Pro veterans, including Leah Nomkin ’16, a Spanish and English double major from Phoenix, Arizona, and Melody Dahlgren ’16, a politics major from Santa Cruz, both of whom are serving as choreographers for the fourth straight year.

During their first year at Oxy, Nomkin and Dahlgren both found Dance Production separately. Each auditioned to be choreographers and choreographed separate pieces that first year. After being partners in a swing dance, the two decided to team up as choreographers and go back for their second year.

"After that first year starting not just as a dancer but as a choreographer as well, I was already so deep into Dance Pro, and I just wanted to get more involved," Dahlgren said. "[Dance Production] is the main part of my life here outside of academics."

In addition to being choreographers for all four years of their Oxy careers, Nomkin and Dahlgren have also been on the Dance Production executive board for three years, the maximum amount of time one can serve on the E-Board.

"They can’t get rid of us," Nomkin said with a laugh.

Since its start in 1948, Dance Production has given the opportunity to dance to anyone who is willing to learn. Many have little or no dancing experience. Over the course of five months, student choreographers hold weekly, 90-minute rehearsals, sometimes teaching up to 80 students at a time.

"I think Dance Pro’s inclusiveness really draws me in -- the fact that anyone can participate who wants to participate in it, and I’m all about that, "Nomkin said. "I think that’s what should be dance. Dance shouldn’t be an exclusive thing; it shouldn’t be limited to people that only have a certain skill level."

Third-time choreographers Clare Shuey ’16, an economics major from Palo Alto, and theater major Declan Meagher ‘16 from Baltimore showcase hip-hop, while economics major Deon Summerville ’16 of Saint Louis and art history and visual arts (AHVA) major from Mill Valley Jessie Fontana-Maisel ‘16, also third-time choreographers, pair up to present Broadway. Cognitive science major Onyekachi Nwabueze ’17 of San Francisco comes back with a new hip-hop piece, and sociology major from Randolph, Mass. Dalin Celamy ’16 also presents hip-hop. Physics major Scott Lew ’16 of Chino and biochemistry major Pavel Gladkevich ’16 of Albany come back with urban styles, and history major from Montpelier, Vt. Flynn Aldrich ’18 will add his second commercial hip-hop piece to the production as well. 

Many first-time choreographers are making their appearance this year, bringing fresh talent to the stage. Long-time Dance Pro participants Hilary Fitzsimmons ’16, a psychology major from New Canaan, Conn., and Patrick Walsh ’16, an AHVA major from Northborough, Mass., are first-time choreographers presenting a smooth hip-hop and a percussive hip-hop piece, respectively.

Third-time choreographer Tess Arrighi ’17 will bring a new jazz/ballet piece. First-year trio Elizabeth Hansel, Mariana Martinez of San Antonio, Texas, and Emma Wilson of Palo Alto bring contemporary ballet to the stage. Carlsbad native Michelle Levitt ’19 comes in with a new contemporary piece. Ian McPherson ’19 of Bothell, Wash. is choreographing a hip-hop piece, while Zuleika De La Cruz ’19 of Los Angeles introduces flamenco to Dance Pro. Ben Lomond native London Murray ’18 introduces a unique form of jazz. Diplomacy and world affairs and Spanish double major Kiera Cox ’18 of Everett, Wash. brings an original lyric piece, and sociology major from Hilo, Hawai’i Kelly Fitzgerald ‘18 presents a hula kahiko (traditional hula).

With the exception of faculty supervisor Chad Myers, Dance Production is completely student-run. Choreographers’ responsibilities are extensive, ranging from creating and teaching their original dances to formulating stage formations and lighting cues. E-Board members are responsible for everything else, including organizing dancer bonding events, scheduling rehearsals, managing club finances, advertising, fundraising, coordinating with Theater Department Associate Production Manager Marie Scott Mawji, and updating social media.

This year’s E-Board members are co-presidents Summerville and Fitzsimmons, co-secretaries Nomkin and Fitzgerald, co-treasurers Julianne Butt ’17, a group language major from Singapore, and Reed Foster ’18 from Salem, Ore., co-publicists Dahlgren and Aldrich, and co-social chairs Ilana Share ’17 of Oakland and Rachel Wein ’17 of Sunbury, Mass. (both psychology majors), and Washington, D.C. native Sydney Hemmendinger ’18.

"Just have fun!" Nomkin said with a smile. "That’s what Dance Pro’s about: fun and community."