University Dance Company dancers rehearse for the fall dance concert that takes place Nov. 14. 

Mirrors cover the walls. White, fluorescent light fills the room. A dark gray mat-like ground expands across the floor in room 242 at Robinson Center. 

Dancers Darian Bruch, Taylor Cheek and Jennifer Egley sat down and started stretching for the upcoming practice. Once they were done, associate professor in the department of theatre and dance Jerel Hilding started the slow music and counted, “1, 2, 3 and 4.” 

They’re practicing for this semester’s Fall Dance Concert on Nov. 14 that will feature themes of femininity and feminine empowerment. 

“One of the reasons we chose this Feminine Empowerment is the majority of our dancers are female,” said Dance Studies Coordinator James Moreno. “We wanted to give them a chance to investigate the idea of what female empowerment is and what it means to them.”

University Dance Company vice president Jordyn Manhart said she thinks it’s important to recognize female strength. 

“I think a lot of people think that when people want to be a dance major, it's just kind of an easy way out,” Manhart said. “For some reason people have that impression.”

According to Moreno, this concert will challenge societal norms that females and males face in society today. The goal is to communicate how women can express themselves about this topic through dance.


Professor Jerel Hilding choreographs a class in rehearsal for the fall dance concert in a piece dealing with ancient Roman Diana.

Hilding approached Bruch, Cheek and Egley and started going through the dance’s motions with them. He lifted his arms and Cheek did the same. 

“Dance, I think to achieve that is that human bodies start to resemble other things or take on qualities of things,” said Michelle Heffner Hayes, a professor in the department of theatre and dance. “Then, it's further formed by the music and the lighting and the costumes until the whole production feeds into these messages and action.”

The concert also aims to address issues such as gun violence, racism, the environment and sexism in today’s culture through the art of dance. Guest choreographer Rebecca Bryant will choreograph a piece that deals with gun violence and gun culture in America. 

“We take themes, and we take ideas from life, such as female empowerment,” Moreno said. “They construct those ideas in a very deep and profound way and express them in ways that make me think, that inspire me, that challenge me. In waves, that's what helps me figure out my place in the world.”

Hilding’s ballet is based on the myth of Diana seeing Actaeon bathing and she reacts to his invasion of her privacy by turning him into a deer. According to Hilding, his ballet piece features Diana and a group of her companions displaying their prowess as hunters, showing the themes of feminine strength, intrusion upon seclusion and retaliation.

“I think that just by moving your body in a certain way — and with a certain mindset of what you're trying to achieve — sort of helps you embody that message,” Manhart said. “When you combine the meaning and the moves and the music altogether, and just creates this almost like perfect storm of emotion and connection to whatever you're dancing about.”