What this is all about

Based on the WMRA show "The Spark", hosted by Martha Woodroof, this project looks at the creative passions of college students in the Shenandoah Valley area.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Tara Bonanno, the Dancer

Tara Bonanno started dancing in fourth grade. She began with tap dancing, and soon added jazz and modern ballet, devoting her free time to movement. It wasn’t until high school that she became a serious dancer, and by then she was hooked. Dance remains her passion as she moves on through college, and she hopes to continue it after graduation.
Tara is a junior at the University of Virginia. She is a Commerce major, a unique program at UVA that incorporates all aspects of business. With her dance minor, Tara has a busy schedule, but she was able to take some time to have a conversation with me about why she loves it so much.
“I wanted to be able to go to a school where I would be able to take dance classes,” Tara says. “I didn’t plan on minor-ing until I got to UVA when I realized how important it was to me, and how much I missed dancing around the clock.”
The program is relatively new, and only offers a minor, but it has a range of lecture and studio courses that help to create a well-rounded dancer. Half of the program is technique, and half is creating an intelligent dancer – one who can critique and understand dance and its history.
“I was really attracted to the formal program since it is a smaller group of students – you draw those who were really committed and excited about dance. You don’t get lost in the group as another faceless student or dancer. And a lot of these dancers created their own work, which, when I was a freshman, was something really daunting but exciting to me.”
Tara has a taste of many styles of dance, everything from tap to West African, but her favorite is modern. To her, it has the most freedom with creating movement, and pulls from a variety of techniques. It is not the most difficult style for her (ballet holds that title), but this style does demands a great level of skill and ability that can create a versatile dancer.
With a background in martial arts (she did Tae Kwon Do for eight years), Tara really enjoys exciting dances that incorporate strong and powerful movement. This was an aspects of various West African styles that she particularly liked. Its visceral quality captured her attention, and although she has only done a small amount through master classes, this is one style that she would love to continue.
The dance program has two formal performances a year, a Fall and Spring Concert. It is choreographed by faculty as well as students, and Tara is creating a piece for the upcoming concert. Last semester she choreographed her first dance, choosing to do a modern piece that was light and upbeat.
Backstage with her dancers from the 2012 Fall Concert
“My choreography comes from an emotional state of being that is important to me. It directly translates to movement. My last piece was inspired from a billboard that I pass on the way to work... its old and someone painted “Gratitude” on it in huge orange letters. It was a good reminder to me to be thankful, and fueled a lot of movement.”
This semester she draws her inspiration from art. Tara is working with several UVA art students and using their work to inspire her dancers. She brings different pieces to all of the practices and has her dancers improvise based on the art work. Every night that they dance they create something new.
“It is hard to pinpoint why I dance,” Tara said near the end of our conversation. “In class, or in performance, you can see something in another person when they are completely invested in dance. You can see the tiny moments that you feel in yourself... you tap into this subconscious burst of movement... Its something I haven’t been able to find in any other sort of art form or activity.”
In one of my own classes my professor jokes that students can read an excerpt from their essay or perform an interpretive dance. So far none of us have taken up the dance offer, but I wonder if Tara would if she were in the class. There are some feelings that are difficult to convey through words, but there can be so much power in movement that at times it may be able to speak for us.
“Communicating through body language... it connects your intellect with your body and your soul,” Tara says. “It has become very relevant to how I see things and how I learn.”
Tara will be performing in the Spring Dance Concert on April 11th and 12th at 8pm, and April 13th at 2pm and 8pm, in the Helms Theatre at UVA. She says it is unlikely she will dance professionally after graduation, but for now, the stage is hers.

           Next week I will be posting my conversation with Eric Cecchett, a junior at James Madison University.

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