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Original BW music and dance project shines 'One Light' on pandemic experience

Dancers perform for the camera on the rooftop of the Ariel International in Cleveland.The arts suffered during the COVID-19 pandemic, but they also served as a balm.

The release of "One Light," a stunning video with original music and choreography, showcases the cathartic power of the arts to allow artists and audiences alike to process the pandemic experience from sudden isolation to reconnection.

As detailed on cleveland.com, the project is the brainchild of Baldwin Wallace University's Community Arts School (CAS), which did its own creative (and award-winning) pandemic pivot.

The nearly nine-minute performance took place on a rooftop overlooking Cleveland's skyline and Lake Erie and was professionally recorded in a multi-camera shoot that included a drone camera.

An expression of hope and resilience

BW Composer-in-Residence Clint NeedhamWith choreography by Heather Dennen, program coordinator and director of dance for BW CAS, and new music by Dr. Clint Needham, the BW Conservatory of Music's composer-in-residence, "One Light" features 15 of Dennen's CAS dance students ages 7 to 18.

"These kids gave me a lot of hope," Needham says about executing Dennen's vision for the project. "They were able to adapt to everything. They've come out on the other side of last year, not completely unscathed, but really excited about the future."

Needham's powerful, eight-minute-plus piece was performed and recorded by a string quartet comprised of BW and CAS faculty Sam Rotberg and Corrie Anne Riberdy on violin, Carol Ross on viola and Gayle Klaber on cello.

Speaking without words

"One Light" choreographer Heather Dennen leads a rehearsal - Photo by Steve SchusterBut it was the young dancers who brought the piece to life against the expansive backdrop.

As they rehearsed ahead of the three-hour shoot, Dennen immersed her students in the creative process, encouraging them to wrestle with the themes they were expressing through music and movement.

"I think it's important that the students have a voice in the process," explains Dennen. "That's why we dance. Because it lets us express things that words don't. These students are very in tune with what was happening in the world this year. They wanted to be an influence, to make a change, to have a voice. And at 13-14 years old, how do you give them a voice? Well, we're dancers, so we're going to dance."

Reflecting deeper purpose in dance

Dennen believes "One Light" also reflects the values of the BW Community Arts School, beyond just learning the steps, and that includes "equality, giving people a place to belong so nobody feels isolated. And, making sure that everyone feels respected, heard and valued as a human being."

"Sure," Dennen says, "I want my students to be good dancers. But, at the end of the day, I want them to be good human beings."

Watch the full video below and read the whole backstory on the BW Community Arts School website.

One Light video graphic and play button

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