The spring showcase comes around every year for the MSU Dance Club, but this year’s showcase was particularly memorable.
Rachel Gross, a junior at Michigan State University, choreographed a dance titled “Spartan Song” in tribute to the lives lost and the students affected by the campus shooting that occurred in February of this year. The piece showcased 56 dancers, all of whom are Michigan State students.
“I started to think about how I could process what happened,” Gross said. “Dance has just always been the answer for me.”
Gross said that she felt a lot of pressure to create the perfect piece. She knew that something this important and emotional needed to be done right. In collaboration with club president Braeden Rutherford, the performance left many audience members in tears.
“With a number like this, it is more than just dancing,” said Rutherford. “We are telling the audience our story and how it affected us.”
Gross found the process of song selection to be particularly difficult. She listened to numerous songs to find one that spoke to her, focusing primarily on feelings and emotions.
Eventually, she settled on “Train Wreck” by James Arthur. Some of the lyrics of the song include, “Still a home/ Still a home here/ It’s not too late to build it back.”
Letting the words of the song impact their movements and facial expressions through modern interpretive dance, every dancer used this performance to tell their individual stories and aid them in their healing process.
“I always think I dance better when there is a purpose behind my movement,” McKenna McEveety, an MSU Dance Club member, said. “I think as dancers, the piece was a way of expressing our experiences and stories to the audience.”
“Dance is my support and where I find myself letting everything go,” Rutherford said.
For Gross, “Spartan Strong” was the hardest dance she has ever had to choreograph, but it allowed her to take back some control over her experience and create something with meaning.
“I think the dance ended up just giving me a sense of healing and giving me a sense of control over my life again,” Gross said.
Rutherford remembers being on stage during the performance to see multiple people in the audience recording. She believes the dance had the same level of impact on those in the audience as it did on the dancers themselves.
“The ending where we all stood together holding hands was the part that left audience members in tears,” Rutherford said. “We were able to become ‘Spartan Strong’ together.”
“I believe audience members thought it was a good reminder to never take anything for granted and to hug your loved ones close,” McEveety said.
Rutherford noted that it takes a special person and dancer to take on a project of this magnitude.
“This was a very difficult time for many people and to create a dance to reflect that is hard and emotional,” Rutherford said. “Rachel did an amazing job, and I am beyond proud of her ability.”
Gross hopes those in the audience saw it as a community coming together and rebuilding after a devastating event struck their campus.
“It just shows that we’re a strong community,” Gross said. “Spartans stand together.”