Inside look: Harmony in Motion’s Annual Benefit Concert in support of AUTISM SPEAKS.

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Haley Jean Race performing her solo "You Are the Earth."
Haley Jean Race performing her solo “You Are the Earth.”
Dancers perform "Learning to Build" choreographed by Victoria Unterberger.
Dancers perform “Learning to Build” choreographed by Victoria Unterberger.
Dancers perform "Hang On" choreographed by Fiona O'Brien.
Dancers perform “Hang On” choreographed by Fiona O’Brien.
The dancers take the final bows.
The dancers take the final bows.
The dancers take the final bows.
The dancers take the final bows.
Grace Smiley and Katherine Woinski perform "Fading."
Grace Smiley and Katherine Woinski perform “Fading.”

Fiona Scruggs

On Tuesday, Feb. 23 in the Albig Studio Theatre of Peters Hall, Radford University School of Dance and Theatre presented Harmony in Motions’s Annual Benefit Concert in support of AUTISM SPEAKS, which is an organization that works to research, raise awareness, and find a cure for autism. Each year, Harmony in Motion, the Dance Departments’s student-run organization, chooses a different organization to support.

To open the performance was “You Are the Earth,” choreographed by Haley Jean Race to the music “Þú Ert Jörðin” by Ólafur Arnalds. This piece began with gentle piano music as the dancer sat cross-legged on the floor before slowly standing. Through reaching and growing with every movement, she expressed not only a sense of struggle in life, but also of the beauty and strength of finding oneself a part of something larger. That something larger being Earth. Race explained that her solo exemplified everything she had felt and is still feeling during her senior year, especially the things she could not put into words.

The second piece of the program was titled “Isolation” and was to the music “Stay With Me” composed by Clint Mansell. The choreography was by Sara Cooper. This piece represented the things that knock us down in our lives. The dancers kept a pulsating rhythm and intense focus throughout. “Isolation” was an excerpt from Cooper’s Honors Capstone “Expansion: A Study of Dance and Words.”

The program’s third piece was “Fading,” which was choreographed by Sydney Crawson and Grace Smiley to the music “Dead Island Theme” by Giles Lamb. This duet was emotionally performed by Grace Smiley and Katherine Woinski, a student of the Radford University Ballet Youth Program. They began dancing in unison, one in front of the other. Eventually, they each began their own choreography, yet still complemented each other’s movement and expression.The audience learned that the piece was about a family member who had Alzheimer’s Disease. Since the family member struggled with separating childlike and adult memories, the fact that the two dancers fit that description made the piece even more meaningful. It certainly tugged at the audience’s heartstrings.

For the fourth piece of the evening, Kari Argabright performed her solo “Off. Return.” to the music of “Garden,” composed by Hiatus. The piece began with red lighting and no music. Since her choreography consisted of rolling, flowing, and spiraling movements juxtaposed with stopping and starting, it certainly reflected the title. According to Argabright, her piece really did not have a meaning. She simply wanted to challenger herself with different ways of getting onto and off the floor.

The fifth piece of the program was titled “Learning to Build,” choreographed by Victoria Unterberger. The music was “The Type” by Sarah Kay (poem) and “Corale” and “Corale Solo” by Ludovioco Einaudi. The spoken word and dance complemented each other beautifully. According to Unterberger, the piece was meant to demonstrate femininity socially versus personally and how women relate to other people based on that. The choreography exemplified the meaning of the poem and spoke to the audience very well.

The program’s sixth piece was “Aiden” and was a solo choreographed and performed by Arianne Thompson to the music “Mahatama” composed by Dan Holland. The piece began in silence with gestures focusing on the hands. This motif recurred throughout the piece. Once the music began, the choreography took a dramatic turn. Thompson explained that her choreography was about a student she works with who has disabilities and his process in working through them.

The final performance of the evening was “Hang On,” choreographed by Fiona O’Brien to the music “Hang On” by Dr. Dog. This piece reflected a happy-go-lucky mood for the audience. The contemporary choreography was jazzy and sweet. According to O’Brien, this was her first time choreographing at Radford University. Her piece was inspired by overcoming difficulties in college and taking a deep breath.

After the show, the audience actively participated in the question and answer session. They had the opportunity to ask any questions of both the choreographers and the dancers. Overall, the show was a success both for the student choreographers as well as AUTISM SPEAKS.