A student of the School of Theatre and Dance is here to challenge the assumptions most people make about ballet performances.
What does a classical dancer look like? What do they wear and what attitude comes to mind when you think of a ballet performance?
“I’m really interested in movement in heels,” said Shauna Sloms, a USF dance student looking to change the way people see the classical style, through her most recent dance, entitled “Gemini.”
Sloms is looking to defy the expectation of women dancing in heels on stage by implementing a balletic technique with a lot of strong references to her classical background.
She calls her new original style “#PumpMovement” which she describes as “raw, real and radical.” It is all about taking the aesthetic of Vaudeville, a traditionally trivial form of dance and putting it in an entirely different context.
Defying the audience’s expectations can really make a performance special, but performing the traditional technique with unconventional footwear can create unexpected challenges.
“Different sort of balance and pointe,” Sloms said. “You really have to be strong. We do a 10-minute ab program every time before we start.”
During the process of creating the piece, they incorporated improvisational ideas from their dance classes in order to find the fluidity in the movement.
To the dancers, this story means something even greater.
“We're dancing how we want to dance without being oppressed or abused for it,” Sloms said. “This is who we are, this is what we want to do. We’re putting it out on stage. We’re doing what we want without a sexual judgment or anything.”
The way dancers dress has often been for the benefit of the male gaze and for these dancers it is important to defy that expectation as well as to poke fun at that expectation with a bit of tongue-in-cheek humor.
In a portion of the dance, the performers play the role of the traditional housewife only to break out of that role in unexpected ways. They strike a balance between exploring the nuances of gender roles while also performing an entertaining piece.
“Gemini” will debut at the USF College of the Arts Student Dance concert on Friday, Feb. 1 at 7:30 p.m. as well as two additional performances on Feb. 2 at 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $10 at the door for USF students.