While the Griz football team wiped the floor with Eastern Washington, the UM dance program celebrated a victory of its own, only a building away from the packed stadium. After more than a year, the UM dance program held a live recital — the first live performance since the pandemic began.

The show allows the dancers to perform at a close distance to the audience, thanks to the Masquer Theatre’s three-sided stage, and is aptly titled “Dance Up Close.”

During the show, nine different pieces were featured, highlighting 23 dancers in total. Each piece was choreographed by a student as part of junior or senior projects. 

“It’s been really exciting to see the students transition into being in a theater again and preparing themselves to perform for a live audience,” said Brooklyn Draper, assistant professor of dance and a producer of the show. “It’s exciting, but I can imagine it’s also kind of scary. I know if I were performing, I would definitely be a little nervous.”

“It’s unreal,” Hannah Dusek, a third-year dance student said. Dusek performed in three pieces of the show and choreographed the piece “And Then, the Influence Shifted.” 

“We haven’t heard people actually clapping for us for so long. Everyone’s really excited,” Dusek said.

Despite the second of four performances of “Dance Up Close” falling into the same time slot as football playoffs, the limited seats sold out and the crowd was engaged in every piece, voicing their praise of every flip, spin and lift in the show. 

The first piece, “The Unexpected Movements of Tennis: Breaking the College Expectation to Conform Through Dance,” was one of the program’s more unique offerings, featuring only two dancers, two tennis rackets and a net. 

It was choreographed by Bella Kasper, a UM student who is also studying psychology, as her senior project. Her dancers called her their tennis coach throughout rehearsals.

“I’ve never actually played tennis,” Kasper said laughing. “I just find the movement really interesting, and I really like doing something that no one’s anticipating.”

Other highlights of the evening included a piece themed around a coffee date, a prerecorded film that was projected on the wall, music by alt-J and Mac Miller and fresh hatchlings from a pair of giant eggs.

Tickets to all four showings were “pay what you can,’’ Draper said. The price of each ticket was chosen by each individual person at the show for the amount they decided to contribute to the program.

In addition, shirts, sweatshirts and raffle tickets were sold to raise money for the ASUM Dance Club’s trip to the American College Dance Association Regional Conference in Oregon, which is set to be held in-person this coming March. 

Dusek stressed the significance of dancing with other people from around the country to help developing skills as artists, which the conference would provide. After a long stretch without these interactions because of COVID-19 restrictions, the club is eager to attend in 2022.

Though difficult, the time spent without live performances wasn’t all bad, Dusek said. 

“We’ve really been able to dive into who we are as choreographers and performers,” she said. “And been able to figure out how we want to create, what we want to create.”

With much of UM’s curriculum returning to normal, Draper said many UM dance professors are drastically shifting their teaching methods.

“I’m really just taking it day by day,” Draper said. “I think the dancers are doing a phenomenal job at getting used to constant change and being ready for anything.”

Likewise, the Dance Club is preparing to revert back to live shows for primary events.

“I do think the focus is going to shift to bringing back live performance,” Dusek said. “It’s definitely not the same as it was. We still have to wear masks and there’s still a limit to the amount of times we can make contact with each other on stage doing certain movements, but it’s still something we want to do.”

“As dancers, we feed off of an audience’s energy so much,” Kasper said. “That’s why it was hard, especially performing for a camera. It’s just not the same thing and you don’t get the same feeling. There’s definitely a magic behind an audience.”