HMTC presents “Unity Through Motion”


Allison Markman, Contributing Writer

The Horace Mann Dance Company (HMDC) sought to bring “unity through motion” over Zoom last Friday at their annual student-choreographed dance concert. HMDC and members of Dance Department Chair Allison Kolinski’s dance workshop and PE classes performed a mix of solo and group routines.

The production’s goal was to connect people through dance and movement, Julia Grant (11) said. “No matter how far away we are, we can still stay together through dance.”

HMDC co-Presidents Yana Gitelman (12) and Mikayla Benson (12) choreographed the opening and the final numbers before winter break, and taught the routines both online and in person, Gitelman said. 

Benson, who edited the concert together, aimed to create a story arc within the choreography that paralleled HM’s remote learning schedule. She began with a dance number recorded at school, followed with an online performance, and concluded with another performance at school. “It’s this arc of where we actually have gone in the past year, now we’re celebrating and we’re finally back together after our winter break,” Benson said. 

To prepare for the performance, the dancers met multiple times a week to learn the choreography, Jillian Lee (10) said.

Dancers were not allowed to have physical contact with each other, which limited the routine itself, as students could not perform lifts or other maneuvers in their choreography, Gitelman said. “Trying to keep a group dance interesting for three minutes when everyone is doing separate movements, in separate places, six feet apart, is hard.”

Rehearsals also became difficult as the school switched between online and in-person learning; Dancers needed to rehearse in their own homes when online and work around COVID-19 protocols when in school, Gitelman said. While online, dancers found it challenging to learn choreography through video tutorials and without the guidance of their fellow dancers, Lee said.

The HMDC decided to use these limitations as a source of inspiration and creativity, rather than a constraint, Gitelman said. The choreography took advantage of the online platform by incorporating artistic elements only possible through computer technology, she said.

Following HMDC annual tradition, both presidents performed their own solos, Gitelman said. Gitelman’s solo piece was choreographed to the song “From the Dining Table,” by Harry Styles, and her performance centered around her nostalgia for her time at the school, she said. 

Benson dedicated her solo to her mother, performing to a song titled “To Mother” by Brandi Carlile. Benson said the various ways her mother “drives” her — both physically and metaphorically — inspired the solo. “She helps me emotionally, she drives me with motivation, and in a very endearing way,” Benson said. She took advantage of the online format, layering videos of herself on top of each other to create the illusion of two dancers. 

HMDC also featured one of Giselle Paulson’s (10) dance animations. Paulson’s animation was made up of over 1,000 hand-drawn pictures of a ballerina performing various movements in stop-motion, she said. The show also featured Paulson’s self-choreographed dance, which her D-period dance workshop class performed to the song “Primavera.” “‘Primavera’ reminds me of a sea anemone and just the way that it expands and contracts and just moves so fluidly with the current,” Paulson said. 

The final piece of the performance was set to a song entitled “Together” by Cynthia Erivo. It speaks to the strength the school displayed throughout the year, Benson said. The song is upbeat, as the performers wanted to focus on the positive aspects of 2020 and their high expectations for 2021.