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Exploring the Struggles of Life Through Dance

By Shannon Miller

Contributing Writer

The fusion of life, art and movement is dance, and Nancy Brier, adjunct professor of dance, reflects this in her creativity on stage and on screen. Her extensive dance background includes international recognition for dance pieces choreographed in the jazz, modern and theater genres.

Professor Nancy Brier (left) directing students through her choreography

After receiving a Bachelor’s degree of Fine Arts in Dance from Arizona State University, she moved to New York City and completed her master’s degree at New York University. She performed with choreographers Frank Ashley and Lenore Latimer, and her concert pieces have been featured on Metro Arts Thirteen. Her work tends to express real life, painstaking issues through motion of the body.

In 2016, she collaborated with her daughter, Aly Brier, on a short film, “Ultralight Documentary.”

“She was the director and editor and I was the choreographer. The documentary was based on the making of the ‘Ultralight’ film from the director, choreographer and dancers’ perspectives,” Brier said. The documentary was shot and produced at the Little Theatre mainstage, where Brier will be showcasing the film’s choreography from Dec. 7 – Dec. 9, 2018. The concert piece, yet to be titled, will be performed by the Post Concert Dance Company (PCDC).

Brier’s students do more than dance; they tell stories. Her choreography portrays the struggles of the human experience. Andrew Teperdjian, a junior dance major and student of Brier’s said, “I like to call the piece [being performed in Dec.] ‘cruelty of life’—the cruel reality of life.” Teperdjian, who plays a person battling drug addiction, dances alongside characters dealing with abuse, mental illness, violence, homelessness and the vulnerability these struggles cause. Brier explained the theme as “troubles that young people have.”

The piece consists of dynamic lifts that audiences can see on hit television shows such as “So You Think You Can Dance” and “Dancing with the Stars.” The dance is performed to Kanye West’s “Ultralight Beam,” giving the dance texture and displaying Brier’s unique use of accentuation and rhythm to tell the story.

During rehearsal, Brier teaches beyond technicality. She helps the dancers emanate emotion through movement, emphasizing strength in her choreography and musicality. She creates art with her students, rather than for them. She speaks to them as fellow artists, and for this reason, they respect Brier as a director, mentor and teacher.

Leo Nobiletti, a senior arts management major who assists Brier during rehearsals, describes her as, “intense but welcoming.” As she observes, she makes intricate changes, and tells her dancers to “be open to change; you must be fluid in that way.” A piece of advice that applies to the dance floor, as well as everyday life.

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