Senior Solo Showcase
Palm Court sits on floor four of the Mundelein Center for the Fine and Performing Arts, overlooking the red brick campus and restless Lake Michigan. Each spring, family and friends gather under the glass ceiling to celebrate the graduating seniors of Loyola University Chicago’s Dance Program. After a year of virtual programming and unknowns, the Senior Solo Showcase returned to Palm Court with a stunning and emotional performance by the Class of 2022. Graduating seniors include Naomi Alvarado, Emily Carroccio, Hannah Hinerman, Arielle McKeever, Merritt Stults, Alysha Grancorvitz, Sophia Seger-Pera, and Nia Montgomery.
As part of the Senior Dance Capstone course (DANC 380) taught by Sarah Cullen-Fuller, each senior commissions a dance artist to choreograph their solo piece. Hannah Hinerman and Merritt Stults called on dance program alumni for references while Alysha Grancorvitz connected with her choreographer through a dance internship with PARA.MAR Dance Theatre during the summer of 2021. Nia Montgomery enjoyed taking drop-in classes from Hannah Brictson and decided to reach out, and Arielle McKeever took the opportunity to work with an old study abroad friend and fellow dancer, Payton Millis.
The rehearsal process was highly collaborative in an effort to create a unique piece for each dancer. “If something wasn’t working, Payton asked for my input, and we figured it out together; she wanted the piece to feel natural in my body,” remarked Arielle. Inspiration and concept were routine points of discussion between the dancer and artist, often extending beyond movement. To create her solo, Merritt explained, “Amanda first suggested the theme, and then I made a Pinterest mood board and did a lot journaling throughout the process.” In the months leading up to the show, dancers met with their choreographers one-on-one outside of class. “It was different to have so much attention focused on me after only experiencing ensemble works for years. That level of feedback was challenging but super rewarding,” noted Emily Carroccio.
This group has faced many challenges, most significantly, the interruption of dance classes and performances during their junior year due to the pandemic. Despite setbacks and heartbreak, the Class of 2022 continued to grow through their dancing and bond with one another. “These dancers have been a constant in my life since I arrived at Loyola, and there is no one else I would rather close out my time with,” expressed Alysha. “We are all so different from each other, and we get to flourish in our solos and come together in a group piece made just for us.” Loyola dance faculty member and Artistic Director of Senior Solo Showcase, Sarah Cullen-Fuller, choreographed the finale ensemble piece “We Built This House” which perfectly highlights the authentic connection between these eight dancers and friends.
As the seniors take a unified bow in Palm Court, they complete a beautiful performance in the same space they auditioned for the Loyola dance program only four years ago. A few more weeks of classes and exams stand between the seniors and graduation, and what follows is sure to be as exceptional journey for each dancer. Merritt reflects, “The Senior Solo Showcase has been a great bookend to our time here, and it makes me really excited to see what each of the seniors will achieve in their futures!”