Maggie Crowe

Fleeting moments: Students find artistic direction through dance

February 26, 2024


Maggie Crowe’s choreographed work begins with four dancers laying on the floor haphazardly, as if thrown there. As haunting whale music plays, they slowly drag themselves to their feet.

“You need to be more weighted,” said Crowe, a petite junior dressed in black, from the front of the room. It’s Tuesday night, and Crowe is finishing choreographing her dance for the upcoming spring show, Moving Bodies/Bodies Moving.

The basement studio in the Modlin Center for the Arts is large and dimly lit, with mirrored walls and long black curtains pushed aside. Next week, the group will move to the Alice Jepson Theatre for rehearsals as the spring program draws closer.

Crowe, along with senior Zara Duboyce and junior Hannah Zaheer, will debut their original choreographed works in the program, mentored by dance professor Alicia Díaz.

Maggie Crowe is a junior who is a double major in American studies and dance. She will dance in five pieces in the spring show, and debut one of her own choreographed works.

“It’s an incredible opportunity. Their works will be presented alongside those of faculty and internationally known choreographers,” said theatre and dance professor Anne Van Gelder, who is artistic director of University Dancers, the student dance company featured in the show.

This year’s program includes works by three New York-based guest choreographers, Ephrat Asherie, Larry Keigwin, and Take Ueyama, who also took part in workshops on campus this fall.

University Dancers are selected by audition. Though many of the students major or minor in dance, it is not required. 

Junior Brooke Gibson is majoring in biology and psychology (neuroscience concentration), with a minor in health studies. “By joining University Dancers, I was able to continue dancing at a high caliber while maintaining my initial academic goals in the sciences,” said Gibson, who plans to become a physician’s assistant.

The chance to take part in the spring show was another draw. “I felt incredibly honored when I learned that Take Ueyama wanted to collaborate with me individually for a segment of his upcoming piece, `Transition.’ It means a lot as a dancer when someone recognizes and appreciates my dedication and passion in bringing their vision to life.”

First year Imman Kajtazović is an economics and political science major who taught dance to children in her hometown of Bihać, in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Being a part of the group has helped to ease the challenge of being away from home. 

“I remember my first week at UR when Professor Van Gelder introduced me to University Dancers. Efforts made by faculty, and dancers, encouraged a sense of community and acceptance,” Kajtazović said. “I remain grateful to University Dancers for not only being a new home but also expressing support and interest in learning about the home I come from.” 

In high school, Crowe practiced for hours every day with one of the preeminent, pre-professional dance programs in New Jersey. She decided to focus on her studies in college as an American studies major and dance minor, just to keep dance in her schedule. Then she changed her mind.

“I became a dance major because I was so impressed with the program that Anne Van Gelder has established here,” Crowe said. “The work we do both in University Dancers, and in the department of theatre and dance as a whole, has pushed me to become a better dancer and artist.”

Crowe described her piece, called Fleet. “It’s about impermanence and time moving, largely through the metaphor of water,” she said. “I am learning that the only constant in life is change, and that is a lesson I am trying to lean into and embrace wholeheartedly.”

In the dance, Duboyce, freshmen Mary Kimbrough, Caroline Perry, and Katie Weispfenning move from the lethargy of the beginning to faster movements. They circle their arms, swimming in invisible waves. In another part, where the dancers are holding hands, one bursts forward, as if to break away from the others, and is pulled back, like the ebb and flow of the tide. Then, they break apart, running away.

“It’s `Get off the stage. Love you — bye,’” said Crowe, explaining the quick movement off stage.

She teaches the dancers new parts of the dance, including a difficult rolling move that takes some time to perfect. They go through the entire piece several times. By the end, the weightiness that she urged for the beginning of the piece is now palpable, and it seems to take every fiber of their being to lift off the floor.

“The dancers are getting a better sense of the arc of the piece,” Crowe said with a smile, as the group begins to gather their things.

Although she plans to become a lawyer one day, she’s now trying to figure out how her future can include dance as well.

“I would love to keep choreographing or teaching dance,” Crowe said. “If the University of Richmond has taught me one thing, it's that you don't have to choose one thing in life.”