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The hard work pays off for Danceworks

By Max Sass, Editor-in-Chief


Nicole Blanchette stood in stark contrast to the dancers across the floor from her. Blanchette wore black pants and a black tee shirt with her hair up in a bun. She stared forward, in rapt attention, as the 12 women in front of her, dressed in three different styles of tye-dye, neon orange, a bright teal and purple jumped, twirled and gracefully moved back and forth.

It was the final rehearsal before the culmination of all the semester's hard work - the two night Danceworks show (11/21 and 11/22) in the John Cranford Adams Playhouse.

Blanchette was not nervous though. At least she did not appear to be.

Never did she abruptly stop a dance, or yell after a mistake. Instead, she just gazed ahead, nodding to the beat of the music and occasionally whispering "good" - more in a complimentary way, rather than a self-assuring way-- after a particularly complex sequences of moves.

But Blanchette had the right to be nervous. She was entrusting her vision to 14 women, all of who could not even show up that night due to practice conflicts with the faculty dance show.


Choreographing creates a new challenge for a dancer, one that Blanchette was eager to take on. She has never choreographed before - with the exception of teaching simple moves to very young girls - but was eager to give it a try.

"In order to be a choreographer, you really have to love what you do, to think of others," she said.

The dance she's created is four and a half minutes long. It's a little sexy, a little sassy and attitude-y and definitely more exciting than the slow-ish music would suggest.

That's all intended according to Blanchette, who first described the dance - set to a mixture of Ain't No Sunshine, Fever and Trouble - as "classy jazz."

"It has a lot of emotion," she said. "It's fun at the same time. All three songs have a bit of a different meaning to them. Most of all, it's just for [the dancers] to have fun and to enjoy being a woman."

She teaches the dance by adding a half of a minute to a full minute of new material each week, all of it a product of her imagination.

"Every choreographer is a little bit different," Blanchette said, "but what I do is I listen to the song, see if I can come up with any ideas in my head, I go to the studio, I basically come up with the choreography for the next week of rehearsal and the same process continues."


Danceworks seniors and executive board members can participate in up to four dances. Everyone else can participate in up to three. Blanchette chose to dance in as many as allowed, plus the one she is choreographing. That means five rehearsals per week, each lasting for an hour and a half. For non-math majors that means seven and a half hours per week.

But as president of the club, it's not just rehearsals that take up time. Blanchette estimates she spends 10 to 15 hours each week devoted to the club, sometimes up to 20.

Oh, and that is on top of being a biology major.

Now 21, Blanchette started dancing in a studio when she was just 3-years-old.

But it's become even more important now, as she credits dance and specifically Danceworks as helping her succeed.

"Dance, to me, was always just my escape for one or two hours of the night after my classes were over," Blanchette said.


It's not just the distraction from a difficult major, but the friends she has made as well that makes Danceworks special to Blanchette.

"My best friends at school are the people in Danceworks," she said. "With friends come jokes and laughing and everything. We dance together, we eat together [and] I live with all Danceworks people."

That is a double-edged sword though, which became evident as Blanchette - the dancers call her "Blanch" - got frustrated with her dancers at one point in rehearsal. In between run throughs, the dancers goofed around, discussed an injured club member's return and debated whether each could pull off a forward roll without using their hands.

"When it comes to teaching them and trying to run a rehearsal, it can get in the way sometimes," she said of the friendships.


Come Tuesday night, a semester's worth of work will have hopefully paid off in two very successful shows. And then maybe Blanchette can take a deep breath and relax.

"I would like to say [I could relax] after our shows," she said, "but now I have other things to worry about. It's always constant planning, especially being president now. Once the show is over, I have to start planning for next semester's show and our events next semester and everything that we do."

And after all this, she'll do it again. She plans to choreograph again next semester.

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