The Dance In Flight company members dance to the opening number for their 2020 spring performance. This show occurred in the Smothers Theatre before COVID-19 impacted the campus. Photo courtesy of Dance In Flight
Before COVID-19 hit, the Dance In Flight (DIF) team had the ability to perform and practice together on the Malibu campus. Erin Heffes, senior and DIF student director, said DIF will have to shift its entire process and production to the virtual world due to the closure of Pepperdine’s campus.
Heffes said she hopes the energetic and creative community will carry on despite new challenges that may arise. DIF is Pepperdine’s student-run dance company that has sold-out performances every year. The team plans on working toward a dance film throughout the year while providing an artistic outlet for Pepperdine students and the wider community to be involved in.
“It’s going to be a weird year — not a traditional year — but we have lots planned, and we’re really excited and we hope people are too,” Regan Zimmerer, alumna and DIF director, said.
Heffes said the company typically has around 25 to 30 members, and they showcase their talent during the annual February performance. The company also has a few other performances at The Well and the Weisman Museum, which are not on the current agenda for this year.
Heffes said DIF will be focusing on producing a single dance film, which it will release toward the end of the school year. She said the documentary-style film will resemble a previous DIF production but will use a myriad of video editing techniques, such as green screens, to provide a cohesive and unified performance.
The DIF leaders are hoping that some of the dancers in California will be able to record a few socially-distanced scenes, Heffes said.
The whole company of 25 members will meet virtually every other Saturday, Heffes said, and the smaller groups will meet in smaller troops every week with their arranged choreographers. Due to time differences, some choreographers will prerecord their video tutorials and teach the dance asynchronously.
Nalani Kaai, a senior and DIF choreographer, said she understands the difficulties that come with Zoom classes, so prerecording the dance lessons with routine check-ins will allow her dancers to practice on their own time.
“I think it’ll help with time management for both me and my dancers,” Kaai said.
The theme of the video production is “Raw,” Heffes said. She said the film will be in a documentary format and will showcase something personal to the choreographers’ life experiences. As a choreographer, Kaai described the questions she reflected on when choosing how to portray the theme through her dance piece.
“What are things that really affect us, what are things we’re passionate about, what is something that defines us?” Kaai said.
Kaai said the idea behind the theme is to authentically express who the dancers are as people. For her troop, she plans to create a piece that highlights strong women and social justice.
The Kick-Off event took place Aug. 18 on Zoom, and prospective members learned about the new online audition and virtual rehearsal format. Darcie Hill, a senior and the DIF assistant student director, led the first virtual community class of the semester following the kickoff event.
Kayla Washington, a senior and the DIF special projects chair, said the community classes are a fun time to let loose and dance, and no dance experience is required.
The community classes were previously open to all students and took place in person, every other Wednesday night, Washington said. This fall, the community class has its virtual dance lessons open to anyone who wants to join.
Kaai said the community class provides a space where students can take their minds off of school and do something fun that gets their bodies moving.
To stay connected with the Pepperdine community during this unusual season, Washington said the DIF Instagram page will be more active, and different company members will have the opportunity to share parts of their lives as dancers.
Washington said anyone interested in connecting with the DIF community can find more information through DIF’s Instagram and website. She said company members hope to engage with the wider community by posting weekly dance challenges on their Instagram page.
“Everyone’s from different backgrounds and just different walks of life, but we all kind of bond over the love of dance, and there’s something really special in that,” Zimmerer said.
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