|Leanna Lewis and Victoria Lefler (standing)|
On Friday, April 14, as part of SIUE's Undergraduate Scholars Showcase, two of my students, Leanna Lewis and Victoria (Tori) Lefler performed and showcased works that they choregraphed. Leanna and Tori are dance majors, and nearly every month, they are performing and producing pieces on campus.
On Friday, they danced in pieces by each other and their peers. Leanna performed in Tori's piece entitled "Tomorrow." Conversely, Tori performed in Leanna's piece entitled "Affliction." They performed in pieces choreographed by other students in their program: "MINDeSAPE" by Dominic Grasso, "Beautiful Minds" Ali Hay, and "Made of Strength and Struggle" by Kaitlyn Hess.
I met Tori her first year at the university when she enrolled in one of my African American literature courses. In addition to dance, she is majoring in history. Over the years, she's worked on various projects with me. Notably, in fall 2020, she interviewed dozens of African American students for an oral history project I direct.
Leanna began working with me in August 2022, as part of RISE-DH, a program for undergraduates interested in working with technology. Tori participated as well. Before our weekly meetings, Leanna and Tori were heading to a dance class or show rehearsal, and after the meetings, they were almost always headed off to another class or rehearsal.
They are a really active, hardworking duo -- continually preparing for and participating in shows and productions.
I was pleased to catch their performances and shows on Friday. I often hear about their work, but rarely get to see themlive. The pieces they performed gave me a chance to witness their individual capabilities as well as how they worked with multiple dancers.
Over the last several months, I became much more aware of how work-intensive majoring in dance at SIUE is. I was also impressed by their extensive knowledge of dance as a profession and their firm positions on a variety of topics associated with dance.
That is to say, more than being dancers, Tori and Leanna are, you learn when talking to them, dance scholars. They are always answering my questions, running down local and national histories about dance, and offering their thoughts on best and worst practices.
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