Students devise 90-minute dance competition

by Anna Buckley / Beacon Staff • October 18, 2012

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Left to right: Joseph Awgul, Dawn DiCicco, Rob Barton.
Courtesy of Joseph Awgul
Left to right: Joseph Awgul, Dawn DiCicco, Rob Barton.
Courtesy of Joseph Awgul

Joseph Awgul, a sophomore visual and media arts major, is about a month away from seeing a year’s worth of work play out in the form of a 90-minute live television show. Awgul is the executive producer of the show, Emerson in Motion, in which five dancers from Emerson will compete to win a featured performance in the Emerson Urban Dance Theater (EUDT) and Emerson Dance Company (EDC) Spring showcase, as well as a photo shoot via EUDT.

Originally planned as a five-episode series, and based off of the popular shows So You Think You Can Dance and Dancing with the Stars, Awgul’s idea has evolved since its inception last year.

 “A good friend, Rob, who is now an executive producer with me, said, ‘Why don’t we just do one live show and change it to 90 minutes, and the rest was history,” said Awgul. 

 Awgul chose Rob Barton, a junior visual and media arts major, and Dawn DiCicco, a senior visual and media arts major, as his executive producers — two students whom Awgul had worked under as a freshman. Awgul said he’s learning from both Barton and DiCicco through this process.

 According to Awgul, Emerson Independent Video picked up Emerson in Motion in April. Since then, Awgul and his fellow executive producers worked to decide on graphics, oversee the composition of the original theme music, plan out the casting weekend, determine the challenges, hire the management staff, market the project, and solidify a logo. Awgul said much of the work was completed this summer.

 The dancers auditioning for the show learned a combination in either jazz or hip-hop; then 15 dancers were called back for the next day of auditions, where they performed a 30-second long solo according to Awgul.

 Ashley Maietta, a senior broadcast journalism major and president of EDC was one of the judges during casting weekend. According to Maietta, she, along with two other representatives from EDC and one from the EUDT provided the dance perspective for the judging adding to the TV angle.

 “Dance is all about conveying emotion and conveying a story without words and without verbalizing something,” Maietta said. “If these dancers could tell a story with their movement and show an emotion, that was one of the biggest things we were looking for.”

 Having worked at casting auditions for American Idol in New Jersey this past summer as a production assistant, Awgul said he was familiar with the concept of having to cut a large volume of talented contestants — though he said it was still a difficult thing to do.

 “All 15 had something so specific that we loved about them, so it was really hard to take 10 people out of the mix and only choose five,” Awgul said. “We chose the five that we felt conveyed a great story to us that we felt that could really work well in a reality show, as well as who were arguably the top five of the best dancers on campus.”

Christine Clayton, a sophomore visual and media arts major and dance minor, is a member of EDC and one of the five contestants chosen for the show. Clayton said she originally wanted to be a part of the management crew, but when that plan didn’t work out, she decided to audition for the show as a dancer.

 “It was actually really intimidating, like really heavy and serious,” Clayton said. “But it was still fun.”

 For the first part of the live competition, the five contestants drew an event and an emotion out of a bowl. Now, they must choreograph a dance premised around that event and incorporating that emotion. Clayton said she pulled addiction and paranoia.

 After the five contestants perform their pieces, two will be eliminated by live text message voting.

 “Live text message voting is something that’s really exciting because we don’t get to determine anything,” Awgul said. “It’s terrifying to think about, but its actually exciting.”

For the second part of the competition, the dancers have been given a number one billboard top 100 hit from the past decade to which they must prepare a solo. Judges who have no connection to Emerson College will decide the winner. Awgul said he is hoping to get dance professionals to serve as the judges on set.

Speaking not just as president of EDC but also as a dancer herself, Maietta said that the opportunity to be judged by professionals will help the contestants become more well-rounded dancers.

 “I think it’s good to not just get the collegiate judge perspective,” she said. “The professional judge perspective is always good because they have more knowledge, and they’ve been in the industry longer, and they have that TV knowledge, as well.”

 The show is set to air on The Emerson Channel on Sunday Nov. 18 from 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., as well as on emersonchannel.org/watch, said Awgul. Until then, Awgul and his team have a month to solidify their rundown, decide on costumes, get the material to build their set, plan the lighting, and determine the script.

 “There’s lots to do, but we’re determined to make it all perfect like we want it to be,” Awgul said. “I think the biggest challenge is that this is one shot. This is one time. It’s not episodic where we can fix something in the next episode. That’s something that’s terrifying but exciting, so I’m really looking forward to it. Live 90-minutes is not easy.”