Alumna finds herself on familiar stage in new role

| April 18, 2014

Betty Skeen, a 2007 alumna of Sweet Briar’s Dance program, will direct the College’s Spring Dance Concert at 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 25, and Saturday, April 26, in Murchison Lane Auditorium. Skeen is filling in as a visiting assistant professor for Mark and Ella Magruder, who are taking sabbatical this semester.

After graduating from Sweet Briar, Skeen earned her Master of Fine Arts from the University of Maryland in 2010. Last spring, she returned to UMD as a guest choreographer and performed with PEARSONWIDRIG DANCETHEATER, including an appearance at Sweet Briar as part of the College’s Babcock Season events.

Kelsey Page ’17 (front to back), Ruth Packard ’17, Chelsea Modeste ’15 and Caroline McDonald ’17 will perform in Sweet Briar’s Spring Dance Concert. Photo by Lauren Burke ’08.

Skeen is directing nine student choreographers in the concert, including Chelsea Modeste, a junior business and dance major from Brooklyn, N.Y. Her duet titled “Relation” reflects her strong emotional ties to family.

“My family means the world to me and without the love and support I get from them, I would not be the woman I am today,” she says. “I believe that this piece is heartfelt, intimate and personal. I hope people relate to that in some way.”

First-year Caroline McDonald, who plans to teach dance, has created a more purely visual solo called “Phantasmagoria.” It juxtaposes a geometrical box with swirling images that evoke an object swaying in the wind in concert with the music, “Middle Night Ballet” by Sonic Area.

Sophomore dance major Comora Littlejohn’s appropriately named duet “Abstraction” is meant to have a “weird feel to it that is sporadic and unexpected, yet engaging.”

“I hope this piece takes people on an emotional roller coaster as they question what it is they are watching,” she says.

Ruth Packard is another first-year who is choreographing for the show. Set to “Crystallize” by dubstep violinist Lindsey Stirling, “Dreamscape” depicts two “dream spirits” guiding a third dancer through her reverie.

“I am hoping that people will feel like the main character has gone on some sort of journey within her dream by the end of it,” Packard says.

Skeen also has two pieces on the program, a “high-energy, episodic” duet for dancers Katie Craig ’16 and Samantha Cochran ’16 and a five-minute improvisation she will perform herself. The unscripted solo will be set to live digital accompaniment performed by Lauren Burke ’08, a D.C.-based sound and video artist.

“This improvisatory piece pulls from material that has been generated from our long-distance call and response over the course of the semester,” Skeen said.

Admission to the concert is free and seating is open. For more information, please contact Skeen at [email protected] or (434) 381-6150.

Jennifer McManamay


Category: Dance