THD Students Showcase Work at the Celebration of Academic Excellence

Published May 3, 2024

student in front of display.

Tari Civerolo

Several Theatre and Dance (THD) students were recognized for their achievements at UB’s annual Celebration of Student Academic Excellence on May 2 in Alumni Arena.

The celebration featured two parts: a Student Showcase, where graduate and undergraduate students present the mentored research, scholarship, and creative and community projects they have worked on during the current academic year, and the Celebration Ceremony, where student recipients of select national, SUNY and UB awards are recognized publicly.

THD was represented at the Student Showcase, coordinated by the UB Experiential Learning Network (ELN), by undergraduates Tari Civerolo, Nathan Eck, Sophia Fino, Mario Liguori and Grace Wythe, as well as MFA Dance student Joshua Ikechukwu.

Participation increased this year, noted Christina Heath, administrative director of the ELN, with 325 students presenting nearly 250 projects at the showcase — an increase of 50 projects over last year.

Dance student Tari Civerolo presented the research behind her dance work “Ensembled” which was featured as part of this season’s Emerging Choreographers Showcase. “Last spring, I conducted research on how failure can disrupt hierarchies in Argentine tango and American ballet,” Civerolo explained. “My research considered how queerness subverts longstanding traditions in these dance forms, or how queerness envisions new traditions by failing to meet heteronormative expectations. Broadly, the notion of failure inside dance inspired me to create a piece for Emerging Choreographers Showcase questioning how failure is framed in ballet today.

“I was interested in contrasting the intense, stressful, competitive, ballet classes I grew up in where failure doesn't feel like an option with a ballet class founded in humanity and difference that allows for messiness. I developed choreography through a formulaic approach, overlaying movement with emotional intent to illustrate an emotional arc and using choreographic tools to support my message. Ultimately, ‘Ensemble’ is a story about a group of dancers who find joy and connection in a competitive space.”

THD students in front of academic display.

Mario Liguori and Grace Wythe

Nathan Eck, Mario Liguori and Grace Wythe presented Professor Kerry Ring’s dance piece “Forging.” “Kerry's work demonstrates the process of heating metal into a shape with fire,” the students noted. “The dance piece is centered around a metal structure which illustrates the human body and its various capabilities in shape making. Malleability and strength are two ideas of the human body shown through the movement and design.”

female student in front of display.

Sophia Fino

Sophia Fino presented her dance piece "Where Are You?" “The work was created in three sections that reflect a dramatic change from perfection to destruction through the lens of maladaptive daydreaming,” Fino said. “Section one establishes a dream world, with dancers moving lightly in a joyous state. Section two builds the destruction entering the maladaptive dream state, with dancers moving through each other in chaos. Section three represents the total loss of oneself to the daydream. Removing oneself from reality and only existing in daydream, all relationships including the one they have with themselves are affected.

“The gentle partnering from section one is reprised, yet the entire quality of movement has changed. Shapes are abstracted and movement becomes more abandoned. In the final moments two dancers are left on stage suggesting an out-of-body experience to dream oneself back into reality. This creative process allowed me to let go of the expectation that the audience must understand every detail of the piece. ‘Where Are You?’ allowed me to create moments that had deeper underlying meanings to me and the cast that the audience may not fully understand in a fleeting moment, yet it still moves a message through. I used moments from my life to inspire movement and connect with the work.” 

student in front of display.

Josh Ikechukwu

Graduate student Joshua Ikechukwu presented his dance work “Zam Ekpele,” which was performed by Abigail Hankinson, Lopez, Delia Mandik, Mya Tran, Nina Tucker, Kelly Quinn, NJ Wingo, along with Ikechukwu at the Zodiaque Dance Company spring 2024 concert.

“’Zam Ekpele’ is an African (Nigerian) Dance and Drum piece that explores the existence of a supernatural being,” Ikechukwu said. “It shows the connection between Africans and the supreme being. The dance showcases movement vocabularies of the western and eastern parts of Nigeria, signifying the act of worship and thanksgiving, coined from the words of Chinua Achebe which state, ‘A man who pays respect to the great paves way for his own greatness.’

“’Zam Ekpele’ was selected to represent the University at Buffalo at the American College Dance Association regional conference held at the University of Rochester on the 7th to 10th of March and it was selected to close the Anchor performance on the final day, which was significant because it was chosen from professional adjudicators and peer institutions.”

distant view of displays.

Photo by Meredith Forrest Kulwicki