Sweet Briar dance

Sweet Briar students dance on stage. 

Former dance majors and Sweet Briar graduates Betty Skeen and Jessica Murphy will return to the college to join faculty and students for the Fall Dance Concert at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 15, and Saturday, Nov. 16, in Murchison Lane Auditorium in the Babcock Fine Arts Center. The event is free and open to the public.

It’s part of the new “Alumnae in Dance Return” series, according to Professor of Dance Ella Magruder.

Murphy, a Lynchburg native, is a teaching artist curious about collaborative making. The dance she will perform at Sweet Briar, “Humanity Against the Cards,” premiered in May 2018 in Stillwater, Oklahoma, as part of the Brave Art Dance Fest. Over its many iterations since then, it has come to capture the “unique, messy and often humorous creative process” of dancing partners Murphy and Cylene Walker-Willis.

“The dance is structured with layers of choreographed movement phrases, improvisational movement scores and stream-of-consciousness dialogue between the two performers,” Murphy said in a news release. “To complicate matters even more, the stage is littered with playing cards from the game ‘Cards Against Humanity.’ Throughout the performance, the dancers interact with the cards to throw each other off and to challenge each other’s Type A tendency to sort, organize and make sense of all the pieces ... no matter how bizarre.”

Skeen’s piece will revisit material from two earlier works: “End Song” was commissioned by the University of Maryland, College Park in 2015, while “The Evening Is Wearing, Darling,” debuted at Movement Research at the Judson Church (in New York City) in 2015. These pieces, Skeen said in the release, both investigate the act of remembering, and thus also the act of re-remembering, misremembering and forgetting.

“There are qualities of deep longing within both original works, and there is perhaps a good old-fashioned romance at the core of all three,” said Skeen, a South Carolina native.

Skeen and Murphy will be joined by Sweet Briar students Haylei Libran, Tamia Jackson, Rachel Woods and Mary Parker, who are all choreographing for — and performing in — the Fall Dance Concert.

Professor of Dance Mark Magruder also is performing and will resurrect an old favorite: “Besame Mucho.”

“This is a solo that was choreographed by my mentor Beverly Blossom,” he said. “It is a real challenge because the performer is half man and half woman. The costume is quite elaborate, consisting of a tux, top hat and a gorgeous dress.”

Magruder has staged it many times in various places throughout the years, including in New York City. “It is a real crowd-pleaser,” Magruder said

For more information, email Magruder at mmagruder@sbc.edu.

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Reach Justin Faulconer at (434) 385-5551.

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