On the Move with MoCo’s Dance Company

Moravian College Dance Company

The Moravian College Dance Company has recently been taken under the ballet slipper of artistic director Melissa Rowbottom, who was hired in the fall of 2015. Her new concert, premiering in Foy Hall on April 13th and 14th, includes many dances by student choreographers.

Rowbottom studied various styles of dance, including tap, ballet, jazz, and theater for over 25 years before coming to teach at Moravian.

“I love being able to continue dance in all aspects: teaching, choreographing, advising, directing. Overall the experience has been positive, but this has been my most challenging year,” Rowbottom said. “I have learned a lot about modern-day college students and how they operate. I’m not that old, but it is amazing how things can change from one generation to the next. I’m learning and improving just like everyone else.”

One student choreographer this season, sophomore Emily Bolger, has been dancing for 15 years.

I started dancing at the age of 4 at my first dance teacher’s house, with a few of my childhood friends,” Bolger said. “The next year, we joined the studio she taught at, Showbiz Kidz Dance Center in Lopatcong, New Jersey. I danced there through my senior year of high school, and danced on their competition team for most of my time there.”

Choreographing a whole dance number to be performed in your yearly show must be a taxing responsibility to take on. But Bolger expressed that it was one of the most exciting opportunities she’s had.

“The experience has been a bit stressful, but also really rewarding,” said Bolger. “After dancing in a few student pieces and also taking a Dance Choreography course (DANC 192) with Melissa last year, I knew that if given the chance, I would want to choreograph. So, I started preparing components like music and preliminary movement ideas over the summer. Then, after working with my dancers for the first few times, I got a better feel of how they each danced and was able to come up with movement that represented what I wanted, but also was really comfortable and fun for them! Overall, it has really been a fun ride. I loved working each week with my dancers, and I am really excited to see my piece on stage.”

Moravian’s Dance Company has been running for more than 40 years, beginning in 1975. Three weekly classes are taught to the company members, including ballet, jazz/modern, and tap. The tap class is free and open to anyone on campus, company member or not. Any member of the company can become a student choreographer, which gives opportunities for members to create their own pieces and take on a leadership position.

“Anyone can student choreograph as long as they are in the company,” Bolger said. “Normally if we have a lot of dancers that want to choreograph, they let the older girls choreograph a piece first. But Melissa has encouraged all of us to choreograph; we even have two freshmen working together to choreograph a piece this year, which I think is awesome.”

The upcoming performance also features dances by Moravian alumni, as well as guest choreographers and guest companies. The rehearsal time before a show is rigorous.

“Student choreographer rehearsals begin in January and meet once a week for 1 to 2 hours leading up to our concert in April,” said Rowbottom. “Guest choreographers usually meet with the student dancers over a few weekend rehearsals of 4 hours each. The week before the show we also throw in a staging rehearsal and tech/dress rehearsal, adding in about another 8 hours of rehearsal time.”

The Dance Company’s performance is on April 13 and 14 in Foy Hall on South Campus, and is free with a student ID. Find out more information here.