Megan Robinson, one of the students to be featured in the Department of Dance's senior showcase. Photo comes courtesy of the KU Dance Project.

After four years of classes, performances and late-night rehearsals — each senior in the Department of Dance plans and produces their own show.  

The show is part of a capstone project where the student can either pick choreography or research, said Michelle Heffner Hayes, professor and chair of the Department of Dance.

Students will present their work and collaborate with other dancers and musicians. The entire production is the senior’s responsibility.

“It’s a culmination of all of the education they have gotten over the four years,” Hayes said. “They have four semesters of choreography, dancing and technique.”

This year, the Department of Dance will hold its senior showcase on May 5 and 6 at the Elizabeth Sherbon Theatre in Robinson Hall. The senior showcase will feature seven seniors, including Grace Martin, a senior from Fairfax, Va., and Andrea Straub, a senior from Omaha, Neb.

Martin said her piece in the showcase is a combination of jazz and tap dance with 11 dancers entitled “Dreaming Dilemmas.”

“It is a play off the idea of having an angel and devil on one’s shoulder giving them conflicting advice,” Martin said. “The angel is performing tap and the devil is performing jazz, and they battle it out to see whose advice the dreamer should take.”

Martin said the biggest challenge she faced was finding time for rehearsal that would work for everyone in the cast. Costuming was also an issue because she had her costumes made in Virginia. But it was a good learning experience. 

“I have learned a lot about communicating with the people around you,” Martin said. “In order to organize rehearsals and to make sure everyone is feeling comfortable with the choreography, it is important to have an open line of communication with your cast.”

Martin said her teachers have had a positive influence on her four years of college because they all have special bonds with the students.

“We are lucky because the department is small so the teachers know all of our names, our dance styles and our future goals,” Martin said. “They have also put up with my outgoing attitude in class, which for everyone in the department that knows me knows can be a challenge at times.”

For Straub's performance, she wanted to work with a creative element. Her dancers will wear LED-lit tutus.

“I have three dancers that will perform a ballet piece while wearing light-changing tutus,” Straub said. “It has been a really challenging, but amazing, process to see this creative concept come to life.”

Straub said she learned a few things about herself during this process. One was her ability to learn more about her style and the kind of movement that comes natural to her.

“Each new piece can be a completely different chapter,” Straub said. “There is so much freedom in dance that I find the most difficult part of the process is simply getting a start.”

The showcases empowered the seniors, Hayes said.

“They get really excited and then really discouraged because it’s hard and they start feeling empathy for professors because they suddenly have experience of being in charge of moving a project forward,” Hayes said.

Hayes said she wants the seniors to realize they now have the tools they need to become expressive artists.

“You become an artist through the practice of hard work, and we are proud of them,” Hayes said.

The showcase will start at 7:30 p.m. both nights; doors open at 7:00 p.m. Tickets are free, but donations at the door are welcome.