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Saint Mary’s students to perform dance recital for students, community

| Tuesday, May 2, 2017

While many students are wrapping up final papers and putting finishing touches on their projects, students in Saint Mary’s Jane Austen Dance class are preparing for their Grand Ball.

The one-credit class is taught by professors Chris Cobb and Rosalind Clark. It provides an introduction to traditional English country dance popular in the time period Jane Austen lived in and wrote about. It features dances in popular books like “Pride and Prejudice” and “Emma.” The class concludes with a Grand Ball in which the students perform the dances for the South Bend community.

Senior Leal Alday, who is currently taking the class for the third time, is excited to participate in her third Grand Ball.

“They have a live band, so it’s really neat,” Alday said. “It’s a lot of fun because it’s not the type of dance for everyone, but it’s a fun type of dance. It’s active enough that you break a sweat, but you’re not dying at the end. It’s exciting to do it all with the people.”

According to Alday and MacKenzie Rizzo, another senior in the class, a big reason why the class is so enjoyable is because of the professors.

“Professor Clark is very enthusiastic and into it,” Alday said. “The dress she wears to the ball was made by her mother. She’s always excited, and her excitement is contagious. Professor Bonnell, another English professor, wears a full period dress complete with a cravat and everything.“

Rizzo said the class offers a chance for students to relax and enjoy time with their classmates in a more casual environment than most classes.

“It feels like a place for the whole English department to take a break for an hour on a Friday, make jokes and dance together,” said Rizzo. It’s fun to see … our professors in that environment. Professor Cobb is different in the Jane Austen class. A weight is lifted off his shoulders, and it’s a nice thing to see.”

The Grand Ball  is open for the public to come watch. According to Alday, the audience sits in an upper balcony of the church normally reserved for the choir.

“It’s held every semester, and there are community people that come every year to see,” Alday said. “It’s fun to dance in front of an audience. It’s not so many people that it creates pressure, but it’s cool for people to see what we’ve been working on.”

Though period dress is not required for the audience or dancers, it is greatly encouraged. Students often use a local costume store to find costumes to wear.

“Professor Clark has a friend with the local Casaday Costume Company, so a lot of people rent from there,” Alday said.

“I’m going to be looking for a dress there Thursday, and if I  don’t find anything I’ll just wear something nice,” Rizzo said. “The professors want people to dress up more than they care about period dress. They want to see people dress nice and have fun.”

The class learns about 10 dances and the professors cycle through a different set of dances each semester, so the class can be retaken for credit. Rizzo said you learn enough that the class presents a challenge, but it’s not too much that it’s hard to memorize the dances.

Alday, who has taken the class three times, feels she has learned something new each semester.

“They recycle some of the dances, but there’s still a lot that are new to me,” she said.

Rizzo said though the class takes place on Friday afternoon, she always looks forward to attending it.

“Normally I’m so exhausted that I want to take a nap and not go to class, but the second I step into class and the music starts, I start laughing, smiling and having fun with all my friends, she said. “I leave the class feeling 20 times better than I did coming in, and it’s refreshing.”

The Grand Ball is Thursday, at St. Paul’s Memorial United Methodist Church in South Bend, and it is open for students and the public to attend.

About Colleen Zewe

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