‘En-Route’ site-responsive dance festival showcases works created and performed in locations throughout ’Berg campus

Innovative and immersive outdoor dance production, May 7-9, will premiere works from 11 choreographers, 68 dancers

By: Ashley Veglia ’21  Tuesday, May 4, 2021 02:45 PM

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The Muhlenberg Dance Program will take their show on the road May 7-9, with “En Route,” a site-responsive dance festival that will showcase works created and performed in sites all across campus.

Eleven student and faculty choreographers contributed to the concert, which will send small groups of patrons through a series of performance sites throughout campus. This is the first such site-specific performance Muhlenberg Dance has ever produced, allowing audiences to experience Muhlenberg’s campus through the lens of movement performance.

“En-Route'' will be performed on site all across Muhlenberg campus, Friday at 4 p.m. through Saturday at noon and 5 p.m. Patrons will tour the concert route in small groups, socially distanced around all 10 sites. Attendance is free. Muhlenberg students, faculty, and staff may attend in person, and will need to sign up in advance. All patrons can attend the Virtual Concert viewing party on Sunday, May 9, at 7 p.m. Groups will depart every 15 minutes during performance times.

“It was important to me that the choreographers consciously engage with their spaces and create original works in response to each location,” says Megan Flynn, the concert’s artistic director. “Choreographers might consider the architecture of each space — its structure and function. They may also draw inspiration from the natural lighting, sounds and textures of each environment. ‘En Route’ provides an opportunity to reflect deeply on the significance of each location, all that came before and will come after.”

Sites featured in the festival include Egner Chapel, the Life Sports Center, the Baker Center for the Arts, the Trexler Library, and several others.

“My hope is that through dance and movement, we can bring awareness and appreciation to how we occupy these shared spaces — from iconic campus structures to the natural landscapes and hidden gems,” Flynn says.

Molly McCarthy ’22 serves as stage manager for this festival.

“That’s the beauty of this festival,” McCarthy says. “We want to control it but we can’t. That’s why we are creating this right now. We are living in a world where we desperately want control but that is rarely possible. We have to let our environment lead us through life, much like the scenery of Muhlenberg will lead us though ‘En Route.’”

“En Route” will showcase the work of six student and five faculty choreographers, and will feature 68 dancers from the Muhlenberg Dance Program, among the most highly regarded programs of its kind.

The 11 original dances feature styles inspired by contemporary modern, dance theatre, hip-hop, and contemporary ballet. Nine will take place in single locations; one takes place in three locations; and one will track the audience around the entire route.

Faculty choreographer Loren Groenendaal’s piece will take place on the college green. She says she found inspiration for her piece from the power, beauty and persistence of nature.

“It feels important to make dance works that deepen our connection to nature,” Groenendaal says. “Humans are part of the world's ecosystems, and yet many people and institutions behave as if this were not true. I work against this trend by facilitating the tuning of our human selves to nature.”

Choreographer Kerry Sullivan ’21 created a piece in the Life Sports Center that explores a sense of female empowerment as well as “the weight of womanhood.” She hopes the piece will make the audience feel “encouraged and reflective.”

“I wanted to pick a space that was not traditionally seen as a place meant for women,” Sullivan says. “I picked the weight room, as it has always been a place on campus that I have felt too intimidated to go. I wanted to reclaim this space in celebration of our strength as women. Just as the concert is about putting dance in spaces not traditionally meant for movement, I'm putting a group of five women in a space not designed for us. I'm interested in how we can inhabit this space without having to change our presentation, but rather show our innate strength and power.”

Faculty choreographer Lisa Busfield explores the beauty, peacefulness, and reflectiveness of the Baker Center for the Arts, to which she says she has felt a strong connection, as both a Muhlenberg student and a faculty member.

“The piece was inspired by the space,” Busfield says. “The Center for the Arts has so much architectural appeal, the openness and high, angular lines of the ceiling, the natural light, and contrast between the white walls and the bright colors that hang in the hall gave us lots to play with.”

“En-Route” runs May 7-9 throughout Muhlenberg’s campus, 2400 Chew St., Allentown.

Live performances are Friday, May 7 at 4 p.m., and Saturday, May 8 at noon and 5 p.m. Patrons sign up in advance for one of three departure times in each performance: Friday at 4, 4:15, and 4:30; Saturday afternoon at 12, 12:15, and 12:30; and Saturday evening at 5, 5:15, and 5:30. All patrons can sign up to attend the Virtual Concert viewing party, Sunday, May 9, at 7 p.m. (ET). Both in-person and virtual signups are available at muhlenberg.edu/seeashow. Admission is free. Covid protocols will be in place at all times; see the signup form for details.

About the Muhlenberg College Theatre & Dance Department
Muhlenberg offers Bachelor of Arts degrees in theater and dance. The Princeton Review ranked Muhlenberg’s theater program in the top twelve in the nation for eight years in a row, and Fiske Guide to Colleges lists both the theater and dance programs among the top small college programs in the United States. Muhlenberg is one of only eight colleges to be listed in Fiske for both theater and dance.

About Muhlenberg College
Founded in 1848, Muhlenberg is a highly selective, private, four-year residential, liberal arts college offering baccalaureate and graduate programs. With an enrollment of approximately 2,200 students, Muhlenberg College is dedicated to shaping creative, compassionate, collaborative leaders through rigorous academic programs in the arts, humanities, natural sciences and social sciences; selected preprofessional programs, including accounting, business, education and public health; and progressive workforce-focused post-baccalaureate certificates and master’s degrees. Located in Allentown, Pennsylvania, approximately 90 miles west of New York City, Muhlenberg is a member of the Centennial Conference, competing in 22 varsity sports. Muhlenberg is affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.