Duke Student Groups Take Spring Showcases Online

In any other year, March and April on Duke’s campus are two of the busiest months for the performing arts. There are the longstanding annual department traditions, including the Department of Theater Studies Mainstage Production, the Dance Program’s Choreolab, and spring showcases by many of Duke’s student groups. With the closing of campus and the transition to online learning, all in-person events were cancelled or postponed. This swift transformation of the spring season deeply impacted Duke’s arts community.

The immediate reaction? Grief. But as faculty, staff, and students moved through this feeling of loss, the performing arts community found ways to connect to each other, and to their audiences, online. The Spring 2020 Mainstage Production, Fefu and Her Friends, was transformed into a Zoom reading—complete with set designs as video backgrounds. Duke Performances launched a weekly livestream in support of local artist relief funds.

Student groups also found new ways to present their work, lifting each other up and offering an antidote for social distancing to the Duke community. We honor their inventiveness and hard work with this round-up.

“MIXTAPE” by DUU Freewater Productions

Duke University’s student-run film and video production group, DUU Freewater Productions, released “MIXTAPE” in April. A student moves through campus, changing songs on his walkman, and student musicians, singers, and dancers surround him, performing the music in unexpected spots across campus.

“MIXTAPE” by DUU Freewater Productions. Starring Mitchel Fleszar-Friedman and Michael Xie. Directed by Josh Yip. Produced by Peter Laboy. Music: “Iggy Pop” by Hey Champ!,” “Butterflies” by Logan Welborn, and original songs by David Gilmore. Dancers are from Duke Swing, Defining Movement, and Street Medicine.

“Say Love” by Defining Movement

Defining Movement (DefMO), is a student dance group that “aims to promote multiculturalism and serve the Duke and Durham communities through dance.” Instead of a live performance, members released “Say Love,” a video of new choreography performed in the Rubenstein Arts Center.

Video featuring and produced by students in DefMo.

“The suspension of on-campus activity was a shock to the system. Given so much of our work in the arts is based on human contact and interaction, the impact was felt in a tremendous way. This experience has shined a light on the fundamental skills of artists: teamwork, collaboration, adaptation and resiliency.

We have certainly missed experiencing the last part of the semester in person, but it has been wonderful to see the students continue to create and explore the arts in new ways. It has been a privilege to be a part of the staff and faculty supporting the work to continue on new platforms that reach people around the world. We are all looking forward to the day we can enjoy Duke student arts and performances in person again!”

—Marcy Edenfield, Senior Director, Venue and Production Management, University Center Activities and Events

New Choreography by Angela Ji ’22 of Momentum

Momentum Dance Company is an all-female, multi-style student performance group joining dancers from all dance backgrounds. Angela Ji ’22 was set to share a new piece of choreography at the group’s spring showcase that was inspired by a Duke Performances presentation. Because Angela filmed the work, Momentum could release the video on their Facebook page.

“I was inspired to create this piece after watching the contemporary ballet company, BalletX, perform at Duke. A small section of their piece was in complete silence, guided only by the synchronized breathing of the dancers. While choreographing my piece, “Ocean Eyes,” I struggled to teach dancers how to use the breath to initiate movement. This music video forced dancers to intentionally breathe through every movement, challenging boundaries as we created our own music through breathing.”—Angela Ji ’22

Choreography by Angela Li. Dancers: Noelle Li, Gabby Cooper, Katie VanderKam, Angela Ji. Videography and editing by Mason Berger.

Watch on Momentum’s Facebook

AOTA Storytime 2020 by All of the Above

Jenna Clayborn ’20 performs “My Side.”

All of the Above (AOTA) is a student group that presents an annual showcase of monologues written anonymously by female-identifying Duke students. The group “strives to present a unique collection of female voices, to spark honest dialogue, and to unite the Duke community.” AOTA was slated to give its seventeenth-annual showcase in March—instead, they produced “AOTA Storytime 2020,” a YouTube release of nine monologue performances.

“Of course, these ‘Storytime’ videos can never fully replace the amazing on-stage AOTA experience but we hope that they can provide some unity and connection in these socially distant times,” the YouTube playlist description reads.

AOTA 2020 Storytime YouTube Playlist

“A lot of folks have turned to art as a means of working through their grief. Our students, particularly our student performers, embraced an even bigger responsibility: How do we connect our community and stand strong together? Their answer was to create and to share their creations with the world.

I am astonished and incredibly proud to see the work these students were able to create and the world that they built for others. It takes tremendous strength to hold the worries of the world and funnel that into performance.

Every time I see a new video I get chill bumps. I am honored to work with the artists in this community. Not only am I blown away by the sheer volume of talent at Duke, but I am reminded of the simple fact that art is at the very center of surviving together.”

—Francesqa Santos, M.Ed, Assistant Director, Arts and Media, Student Engagement, University Center Activities and Events

Episode 1 of “AOTA Storytime 2020.” “A Year in Review” performed by Samantha Streit.

Duke Chinese Dance Virtual Showcase 2020: RISE

Duke Chinese Dance (DCD) students have “a passion for dance and dedication towards presenting Chinese culture to the Duke, Durham, and surrounding North Carolinian communities.” Instead of their typical spring performance, DCD launched a showcase on YouTube, complete with a theme—RISE—to fit the moment, and a message to their graduating members.

“We have chosen the theme ‘rise’ to capture the individual and collective growth we experience as Duke students, Asian Americans, and as members of DCD. We hope to showcase the empowerment, purpose, excitement, and courage involved in such a transformation, and to encourage others to ‘rise’ as well.”—Duke Chinese Dance

RISE by DCD YouTube Playlist

Videography: Ami Wong, Jaewon Moon, Stephanie Zhang. Editing: Ami Wong.

“Writing’s On the Wall” by Out of the Blue

Out of the Blue is Duke’s oldest all-female a cappella group. On March 15, the group shared a video of song that would have been performed on stage, saying, “Our hearts go out to the seniors who won’t get to record and debut their solos at our annual spring concert. We’ll miss their voices, but we know that we’ll sing with them again soon. This year, our amazing music director, Katherine Waugh, arranged and taught her senior song to the group before we left for break. We stood around the [Mary Duke Biddle Music Building] fountain to sing it.”

Watch it on Out of the Blue’s Facebook

“21 Guns” by Duke Hoof ‘n’ Horn Alumni

Hoof ‘n’ Horn has presented musical theater at Duke since 1936. The group was in the midst of preparing for its spring 2020 performance, Pippinwhen the closing announcements began rolling out. Hoof ‘n’ Horn is a tight community, and several alumni came together to offer a bit of salve, singing from rooms spread across the country.

“During this time of social distancing and quarantine, nineteen musical theater nerds reunited for a virtual rendition of “21 Guns” by Green Day, as performed in American Idiot the Musical. We all met doing musical theater in Hoof ‘n’ Horn at Duke University, and it still keeps us together, even when we’re apart. Enjoy!”—Abby Glackin ’14

Video editing by Josh Peterson, audio editing by Abby Glackin.