Rewarding Undergraduate Choreographers With Graffiti

If you’re tired of watching ‘Dance 360’ rejects and ‘Ying Yang Twins’ videos, the UC Irvine dance department has just the remedy. On May 10 to 12, check out ‘Physical Graffiti,’ a dance show featuring the choreographic works of UCI undergraduates. Put together almost entirely by its dancers, ‘Graffiti’ gives people a chance to see different styles of dance at a pre-professional level.
Ryan Sandberg, fourth-year dance and drama double major, has been dancing for almost 15 years, and is one of the choreographers showcased. He will perform a modern piece, a solo that he describes as ‘structured improvisation.’
‘It’s different every time I do it, which is kind of fun because I’m inspired by the movement,’ Sandberg said.
In addition, he will perform a lyrical/ballet duet choreographed by fellow fourth-year dance major Aaron Cota. Sandberg explained that the piece is very personal to Cota and performing it is a different experience than if it were his own piece.
‘You have to dig deeper to find something that’s relatable, because [the piece] doesn’t always apply to you right away,’ Sandberg said.
The students involved take on a variety of responsibilities in its production. They not only choreograph and rehearse the pieces, but they also must attend production meetings and work with lighting technicians, artistic directors and design costumes. Sandberg explained that, because of the enormous amount of work and collaborative effort that goes into the show, most choreographers come out with a new sense of professionalism.
Preparation for the show begins months beforehand. Dancers audition and, after casting and rehearsals, a panel of faculty advisors then decide which pieces to include.
Although he is not nervous, Sandberg said, ‘It’s a little intimidating because it’s the final show of my senior year, and I’m showing what I’ve been doing over the last four years.’
The show will feature various kinds of dancing, from jazz and lyrical to modern and hip hop.
‘I think it’s a great opportunity for students because we get to showcase our choreographic work, performance experience and all of our training,’ Sandberg said. ‘But it’s also great because it offers students a chance to come and see concert dance. We see all of these dancers on TV all of the time in music videos and stuff, but it’s not often that we get to see a concert dance performance.’
Shows like ‘Graffiti’ also serve as an outlet for the stress of students’ everyday lives.
‘You try to leave your baggage at the door,’ Sandberg said. ‘But every now and then something will come up and you think, ‘I’m going to use that, and I’m going to work through that by dancing.”
Physical Graffiti will be performed May 10 to 12 at 8 p.m. at the Claire Trevor Theatre with a matinee on May 12 at 2 p.m.