Every semester, members of the SMU Division of Dance get the chance to perform their own choreography for the SMU community over the course of a week. This performance is known fondly as the Brown Bag Dance Series, because it occurs at lunchtime, and audience members are encouraged to bring a bag lunch to enjoy while they are gathered around the stage that is set up in the lobby of the Meadows School of the Arts.
SMU dance students and movement exchange chapter members work for half a semester to prepare for this special performance. The process begins with an audition, in which student choreographers teach a phrase of their pieces to students auditioning for the show. After the casts have been selected, the choreographers work on their dances for about three weeks, and then the pieces are adjudicated in front of a faculty panel that decides the final program of the show. The choreographers then spend the remaining weeks leading up to the show finishing and cleaning their pieces, acquiring costumes for their dancers, and promoting the show through their social media and advertisements on campus.
This performance is much more relaxed than the culminating dance concert at the end of each semester, which really allows it to be more about the community that supports the dancers. The show is free and open to the public, and many local schools send groups of students to enjoy the show during their lunch hour. Because the show is performed on a dance floor that is laid out on the lobby floor and not in a formal theater, audience members are able to sit right at the edges of the stage and gain a much more intimate view of the work than would be allowed from a traditional show space.
While the Brown Bag Dance series is always an excellent way for SMU dance to connect with the community, this semester’s show was particularly special, because it fell on the week of International Women’s Day, and coincidentally the cast of this show consisted entirely of female choreographers and dancers. This fortuitous occurrence allowed for a truly magical experience for the audience, who was able to see the hard work, versatility and creativity of these female artists. On this day of celebration of the power of women, there was a palpable energy in the dancers’ performance, as they left everything on the floor, while enthralled schoolgirls looked on with excitement. By inspiring a versatile group of individuals through their movement, including classmates in other majors, faculty members, friends, and school children, all with the overarching theme of women’s empowerment during a week of female celebration, the dancers of SMU and Movement Exchange put on a show that was both entertaining and inspiring, embodying the idea: “move to change.”
– Sara Magalio, Dance Diplomat
Southern Methodist University