By Leah Jones, Staff Writer

The University of Missouri—St. Louis Dance Department held their final performance at the Blanche M. Touhill Performing Arts Center on April 30. The performance, titled “The Last Farewell,” was a free show that commemorated the achievements of UMSL’s dance department, which will be eliminated next year due to budget cuts. As Ronderrick Mitchell, dance program coordinator, expressed later in the evening, the varied performances incorporated culture and storytelling.

The first piece was called “Pari Pahi Ganaadhipa” and featured music of the same title. It was described as an “invocatory piece of Lord Ganesha,” the elephant-faced god of Hinduism.  The piece spotlighted a single dancer on the stage, gliding across one corner of the stage to the other.

The second piece, “The Way of the Elders,” was set to a track titled “Haiti Vodou,” which incorporated pounding drums and spoken chants, and featured Charis Railey, senior, theatre and dance, and Robbie Wade, sophomore, anthropology. The dancers were clad in long white dresses, which they made exquisite use of during their twirling performance. The two dancers intricately interacted with each other; Railey seemed to possess Wade, who rhythmically convulsed to the increasing tempo. Though it starts as something very different, the two dancers’ performances synchronize at the conclusion.

“Black PTSD” was a performance set to a version of “Strange Fruit” and featured Anthony Marr Jr., senior, theatre and dance. Marr, clad in orange pants and evoking a prison uniform, began by rhythmically tapping his bare feet. The performance quickly gained momentum when Marr ran around the stage and enacted a violent lynching death; the music incorporated civil rights activists’ speeches and news clips citing lynching statistics and the recent death of Eric Garner. The performance ended with Marr giving a spoken word performance in which he repeated, “Imagine you, imagine me, imagine we, intertwining colors into a masterpiece.”

The next piece was titled “Be Grateful” and featured a music score of the same title. Michelle Hughes, sophomore, theatre and dance, Lalitha Jilakara, Elizabeth Moushey, senior, theatre and dance, Railey, and Wade performed in blue and white dresses.

“Rhyme” was the next piece, set to classical dance music. Both the choreographer and dancer was Qianling Ye, senior, theatre and dance, who floated around the stage with quick, flexible movements in pink silk.

“In the Midst of It All” was next, set to “They Fought as Legends” and featured an exciting performance by dancers Hughes, Moushey, and Wade, all clad in orange, yellow, and blue costumes.

During a brief intermission, Mitchell, who moved to St. Louis in July from Miami, mourned the elimination of the dance program. He reacted to an article for which he was interviewed that appeared in the Riverfront Times, which he said claimed that most people only do dance as a hobby; Mitchell refuted the idea that dance was merely a hobby. He concluded by thanking all of the people who supported the dance department.

The final piece, “The Last Farewell,” began with a video which showed the dancers practicing, and then featured the dancers in a wildly varying, yet emotive, performance. When asked about the piece, Wade said, “Basically [it was] talking about the journey that Mr. Mitchell had from when he came into the department until now … The one focal point was Charis. She was basically representing him and how we were there for him … It was basically an emotional roller coaster.”

The piece did seem to strike a chord with the audience. “I liked the last piece the best. It was the most fun,” said Abby Friodel, freshman, math.

Curtain drawn at the end of ‘Be Grateful’ Eric Wynen/The Current
Curtain drawn at the end of ‘Be Grateful’
Eric Wynen/The Current
‘Be Grateful’ performed by Michelle Hughes, Lalitha Jilakara, Elizabeth Moushey, Charis Railey, and Robbie Wade Eric Wynen/The Current
‘Be Grateful’ performed by Michelle Hughes, Lalitha Jilakara, Elizabeth Moushey, Charis Railey, and Robbie Wade
Eric Wynen/The Current