Mandy Moe Pwint Tu, Executive Staff
Perpetual Motion, Sewanee’s student-led dance organization, celebrated its 30th anniversary on April 5. Founded in 1988, PMo, as it is affectionately called by students and faculty alike, showcased the talents of student dancers and choreographers in a two-hour-long event in Guerry Auditorium.
President of the organization Ellie Clark (C’18) introduced the event, commending all the dancers for the effort that has gone into the dances and encouraging the audience to cheer loudly for them. The event opened with a delightful piece to the Pirates of the Caribbean theme featuring the PMo Officers, Clark, Annie Corley (C’20), Nellie Fagan (C’20), Ashlin Ondrusek (C’19), Danielle Silfies (C’19), and Jiwei Wu (C’20), as well as the PMo advisor, Vice President for Risk Management and Institutional Effectiveness Eric Hartman.
“Since PMo is entirely student run, we have always wanted to do a fun short little piece to give each PMo Officer their chance to shine,” said Clark. “Although it has been talked about, it has never made it to the stage. That was one of my goals this year, to make the officers’ piece happen.”
The piece was one of two changes that Clark, as president, implemented this year. The second was the “Warm and Fuzzy” table that was set up in front of the auditorium, with slips of paper for people to write encouragements to the dancers.
“This has been such a success that I’ve had to replenish the stacks of paper each night,” said Clark.
A diverse range of performances followed, from tap dancing (The Dock of the Bay) to Irish River-dancing (A Trip to the Cottage) to hip-hop (The Exotic Animal). While a few shows from the Black Student Union’s Step Show earlier in the semester returned to the Guerry stage, such as The 90s, choreographed by Crystal Brown-Thompson (C’18) and Chandler Davenport (C’19), most of the performances had been specifically prepared for PMo.
Ronald Hayes (C’19) got involved in PMo his freshman year entirely by accident. When a dancer was injured, he was asked to fill in for him for one dance. However, after performing in the show, Hayes promptly decided to be in more dances in his sophomore year.
“Seeing so much culture being freely expressed onstage by students was inspiring,” recalled Hayes. “As a black student here at Sewanee, a minority student, I don’t feel there are many spaces for me to truly be and express myself. Perpetual Motion allows me and many others, even those who have never danced, to do just that.”
Hayes danced in six pieces this year, including Que Calor Hace, a Latin salsa piece; I Told the Storm, a liturgical piece; and Sexy Men on the Go, an all-male hip-hop piece.
“PMo is a commitment, seriously,” he explained. “I’ve played football here at Sewanee and I’ll say the expectations for practice and rehearsal is just as serious as a college varsity sport.”
The organization holds auditions for choreographers and dancers in September before rehearsals begin after fall break. Each choreographer is encouraged to hold a one-hour practice per week, for which the PMo officers schedule practice times and spaces. With more than 80 students involved in the show, scheduling can be challenging, especially since there are only three suitable practice spaces.
A half showing and a full showing occur in the spring semester. At the half showing, each piece must be halfway finished; by full showing, which takes place a few weeks before the show, the dance must be completed and finalized.
“This allows us to keep the choreographers accountable for creating the piece within a reasonable time-frame,” said Clark. “Otherwise, we might have pieces that aren’t finished by opening night.”
The end product was showcased onstage to a full house in Guerry Auditorium. While PMo is an important Sewanee tradition, Hayes stated that he “would like to see the university truly support this organization and event through funding. Currently, all performers pay a varied amount of dues up to $20 to pay for costumes and staffing.”
Both Clark and Hayes agree that Perpetual Motion is one of the most important aspects of Sewanee’s campus culture due to its diversity and inclusivity.
“We hear the phrase ‘Ecce Quam Bonum’ all over campus, but I believe that PMo is a community of students that truly embodies and represents what EQB means,” Clark said to The Purple. “We take pride in the fact that PMo is a diverse and inclusive community. These are two things we strive for each year.”
“Perpetual Motion is a representation of what Sewanee’s campus should reflect every day,” Hayes stated. “It represents true diversity, true freedom, and true expression of self and culture for any and every student.”
Thank you for featuring this group and production. It’s a tremendous gift to campus and to students. In most towns, communities don’t get to see this much cultural variety and expression. It also serves as a reminder to everyone of all ages and genders that dance awaits anyone willing to listen to the sounds and move their feet.
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