Performers Step Into the Fall Spotlight During Preseason

On the first day of preseason, Masters Dance Company students had an appetite to get moving. “The students returned hungry to dance and prepare for MDC’s fall dance concert,” MDC Director Shell Benjamin explained. “Preseason went extremely well this year.” 

“We had some new dancers join us and also had some old ones return,” said Nico Riley ‘23, a senior company member. “Each one of those dancers helped in making the studio feel vibrant, alive and productive.”

Preseason at Masters is a five-day session in late August when performing artists and athletes gear up for the fall season ahead. For MDC students, that means building relationships, practicing a variety of techniques and styles, participating in team-building activities and taking master classes with guest choreographers.

Riley was energized by a class that showcased influences from Guinean dance. “That workshop taught me a lot: that great dancing comes from aligning your soul, body and mind,” he said. “I also learned that whenever we tell ourselves we can’t do something, we’ve already set ourselves on a road to failure. The mind is a powerful tool, but it’s also highly sensitive and so it’s very important to be careful what we feed it.”

He and his fellow dancers are sure to channel that positivity into their upcoming fall concert “Just DANCE!” slated for November 11 and 12 at the Claudia Boettcher Theatre.

Nearly 50 students were “at play” during fall play preseason at the CBT. “The first half of the preseason week, we work on ensemble-building skills, share the culture of the group and talk about the aesthetic and ethos of the work we do together as a company,” said Meg O’Connor, the fall play director. “We also had a massive ‘air broadsword’ battle and played a lot of physical games.”

All this in preparation for this year’s fall play “Journey to the West,” adapted from a 16th-century Chinese novel by Wu Cheng’en. According to O’Connor, it promises to be an epic tale of comedy, adventure, combat and spiritual growth. “I had directed a different version of it in 2013, so I was familiar with the story and thought it would be a good challenge for us.”

Jessie Xie ’24 plays the role of the monk, Sangzang, “He is an extremely kind and generous character who always finds the good in people, which gets him into a lot of trouble because he recognizes the demons who want to kidnap him,” she shared. “But at the same time, he also has the determination to achieve his goal and overcome all the challenges on the way. I really love this slight contrast in this character.”

Xie also leads the show’s Special Force for Chinese Language and Culture, a group of students who will work to ensure there is cultural understanding throughout the production. “This is going to be a really interesting and creative play to watch!” she added. 

“Journey to the West” premieres October 27-29 at the Claudia Boettcher Theatre. 

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