When Syon Davis and Angelique Olson came to Azusa Pacific, they were expecting to find a dance team to plug into, but when they discovered there was no avenue for them to pursue, they decided to make a change.
Seniors Davis and Olson, English and social work majors, respectively, said they felt out of place without a team to dance with because there were no dance teams that practiced contemporary and jazz technique.
“We were freshman roommates together and both were upset about the lack of dance on campus, and so our sophomore year we started the company,” Davis said.
The Azusa Pacific Dance Company was founded fall 2011 and is wrapping up its third season with Davis and Olson as co-directors. Olson also dances on the team with eight others, while Davis focuses solely on directing.
“I think that’s why [co-directing] works as well as it does—because one of us is participating in the actual dancing, but there’s always one on the outside who’s able to see the whole picture and able to fulfill both of those roles,” Olson said.
However, as Olson and Davis are graduating this May, they realized they must recruit other students to lead the team next year. Not wanting the program to plateau or decline, the co-directors said they are working on nailing down the structure for the team and deciding who they want to lead the women next year to ensure the program continues growing.
“That’s probably our biggest goal — is to make sure that [the team] continues growing and sustains 50 years from now,” Olson said.
The team of nine dancers performs at basketball and football games, attends off-campus artistic conferences and puts together a concert each spring. This year’s concert, CAPTURED, drew a crowd of approximately 200 at the evening performance March 22.
Freshman global studies major Jessica Kraemer attended the afternoon performance and said that it revealed a different team from what students see at football and basketball games.
“At the games it’s way more jazz, but this was a lot of contemporary and lyrical, which was cool, because that’s what I’m more into,” Kraemer said. “And that’s definitely more of what you’d put into a show, whereas jazz is what you’d perform at a sporting event—it’s more fitting for the event. But that shows a lot of diversity in the dancers because they can do jazz and lyrical both really well, and that’s really hard to do.”
Davis said she draws inspiration from author Shauna Niequist’s idea that because God was first a creator, thus Christians should be creators too.
“I think there’s something special about creating with our bodies,” Davis said.
Freshman undeclared major Nikki Charest, a member of the team, agrees that dance can be a medium for worship. APU is the first place Charest has been able to dance where it is her form of worship, she said. She performed a solo at the recent concert, a piece titled “Revival.”
“My solo was about baptism, so telling the story of how this time in my life is a time where I’m reviving my relationship with God, and telling that story through my dancing [was worship],” Charest said.
Many of the dancers get the opportunity to also choreograph pieces for other members of the team to perform. Charest danced in six pieces and choreographed “The Fountain,” a piece about American culture’s desire for everlasting youth. Charest said she enjoyed the work, but found it more difficult than dancing.
While the senior directors are preparing to move on, Olson said she and Davis are proud of their team.
“It’s like a proud-mom moment for us, because we’ve seen where they’ve come from, how much they’ve grown and to see them utilize that opportunity to be so creative — we just sit back and get tears,” Olson said.