Loyola University Chicago

College of Arts & Sciences

Dancing like a saint

Dancing like a saint

Student dancers Lydia Jekot, Sharidan Rickmon, and Gina Wrolstad are set to perform different representations of Joan of Arc at LUMA this October.

By: Amanda Friedlander (BA' 18)

Loyola’s dance program will celebrate its 10th anniversary this year. To kick-off the commemoration, student dancers will showcase an original work inspired by Martha Graham’s Seraphic Dialogue at LUMA in October. The series of contemporary dances, featuring senior soloists Gina Wrolstad, Sharidan Rickmon, and Lydia Jekot, will take place in the exhibit housing Susan Aurinko’s Searching for Jehanne – the Joan of Arc Project. Aurinko’s mixed-media interpretation of the iconic feminist theologian will provide a backdrop for the physical representations of the three Joans: the Maiden, the Martyr, and the Warrior.

The project was led by Amy Wilkinson, advance lecturer and interim director of Loyola’s dance program. The Joan of Arc Project is a dance performance based on different artistic interpretations of Joan of Arc as seen in the original Seraphic Dialogue. Select students choreographed Wroslad, Rickmon, and Jekot as each of the three Joans after consulting with Aurinko about her artwork.

The origins of the show began four years ago, when Aurinko traveled to France on a photography expedition and found herself in a chateau that once housed Joan of Arc. She started re-tracing the life of Joan Arc that took her to places where the saint had lived, prayed, fought, and eventually perished. Since there are no known images of Joan of Arc, Aurinko layered photographs and artist renditions to depict what she may have looked like in each of those locations. But each photograph name displays exact quotes from the saint herself.

Dance and statistics double-major Sofia Mazich, who choreographed Wrolstad as Joan the Maiden, felt especially drawn to the project due to her own Catholic background. She dove into Joan of Arc’s history, reading biographies and learning not only about how Joan described her own life, but how others described her from afar. Mazich took inspiration from these depictions and compiled a notebook full of words and phrases from Aurinko’s artwork.

“I got into the studio with my dancer and read all the quotes to her,” Mazich said, who had an abundance of information on the saint. “I felt so overwhelmed by all of the inspiration.” 

Mazich, who has been dancing since she was two years old, said that the choreography process was “a lot of trial and error,” but that the work grew and evolved the more she and Wrolstad practices. Because, Seraphic Dialogues is also an abstract and combines many different art forms, Mazich expects and hopes the experimental dance style will evoke a variety of reactions. 

“I want people to be open to having emotions come from experiencing the project,” she said. “I think that’s what really speaks to an art form: to come and have a reaction, whether it’s happiness or sorrow or confusion. I think that really embodies who and what Joan was, and what she experienced as a person.”

Seraphic Dialogues will premiere on October 3 at 5:30pm at LUMA, Admission is free to the public. For more information, visit http://bit.ly/2k2XTPn