By Sophia Slaughenhoupt

For The Diamondback

The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center hosted a free student dance performance on Friday night as a part of the NextNOW Fest, showcasing both undergraduate and graduate performance pieces.

The NextDANCE Fest took place in The Clarice’s Dance Theatre, with an audience filled with about 100 supportive friends, family and other dance students. The festival is an annual event started in 2014 to celebrate creativity in the local community and is part of the university’s Arts for All initiative.

This year’s performances were chosen from a selection of dances performed last year, ranging from soft ballet-styles accompanied with high energy hip-hop music to emotionally cutting pieces about personal experiences.

Second-year dance graduate student Mher Kandoyan choreographed an emotionally driven piece about past traumas, titled “Journey,” which involved inviting the audience on stage.

“What I’m working on with this piece is collective healing, especially within traumas,” Kandoyan said. “I invite people to come on stage because having all of those people together and combining those energies and just being together in a safe space, for me, is the way to heal.”

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Other dance pieces focused more on the abstract side of movement and collaboration, like “Slow Thaw,” a piece choreographed by Daniel Miramontes which revolved around the creation of mountains and the passage of time.

“What I really liked about this dance was seeing this transformation of mountains … with the bodies in space and then seeing both of them individually and then seeing them together,” said Miramontes, who is a graduate student studying dance. “It was really cool to come in with these abstract ideas and then have the performers have knowledge of those.”

Dance professor Patrik Widrig said the festival is a joyful welcome back that brings the campus community to The Clarice.

This university’s dance program, as well as The Clarice, work in supporting the arts and showcasing the creativity of their students.

“I think [it’s] a major strength of our school that our dance students are accessing, discovering and developing their own creative voice,” said Widrig. “We don’t impose a style or a certain aesthetic. The students are completely free to create what they want.”

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story misstated that NextNOW Fest took place in The Clarice’s Dance Theatre. The NextDANCE Fest was held in the Dance Theatre. This story has been updated.