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The Daily Wildcat


    Dance senior Joy Veluz explores the reality of burnout in her dance MFA thesis

    Ed Flores
    Joy Veluz is one of the four MFA dance candidates presenting her thesis at “Unthreaded and Raveled.” Veluz portrays physical and emotional burnout through her piece as a universal human experience.

    With finals approaching quickly, accompanied by late-night study sessions, endless papers, and countless cups of coffee, many students are familiar with being burnt out. The craziness of balancing school, a job, relationships, and other commitments can get to be overwhelming, and this physical and mental exhaustion that results is what Joy Veluz explores in her portion of the “Unthreaded and Raveled” MFA dance thesis showcase.

    Veluz’s piece, titled “Black Jade,” features fifteen dancers and expresses their descent into the fatigue and exhaustion so many people can relate to. The piece was inspired by a scene from the award-winning film “Whiplash,” in which jazz band director Terence Fletcher berates and physically abuses his drummer Andrew.

    Veluz said she was inspired when watching this and knew immediately that she wanted to base her thesis off of this concept of burnout, so she began experimenting with how to translate this idea from film to dance.

    “Watching something on film is very different than seeing concert dance and that was initially my spark,” said Veluz. “The entire theme of my thesis is how my dancers can go through both physical and emotional exhaustion but it stems from an original stressor.”

    Read more: Master’s of Fine Arts candidate interprets communication through her thesis.

    Throughout the nearly year-long process of putting together “Black Jade,” Veluz said she experienced a whirlwind of a ride. After teaching in a studio for several years, Veluz wasn’t accustomed to such a long window of time to work on a single piece, a fact that allowed her to craft the performance exactly the way she wanted.

    Veluz admits that the process hasn’t been easy and had its ups and downs, but during the journey she made sure to stay positive to tackle whatever challenge came next.

    “Every day I always reflect on the little things that I’ve accomplished,” Veluz explains. “It is an overwhelming task for someone who doesn’t have a lot of production experience because when you put on a show there’s a lot you have to think about outside of the choreography.”

    Veluz and her three fellow MFA dance candidates have built “Unthreaded and Raveled” from the ground up, not only creating their theses but planning the event, promoting the showcase and managing the entire performance. Although a complicated and at times overwhelming process, Veluz said she had many colleagues and friends supporting her, including her cast.

    When creating her choreography, Veluz encouraged her dancers to engage in the process; for some rehearsals she would ask them to perform some specific choreography, and on other days she invited them to improvise and create their own movement.

    Read more: Dance grad students Danielle Sheather portrays the emotions accompanying death. 

    “My cast has been nothing but supportive and great artists to work with,” Veluz said.  “I have to give my heart to my cast because they’re really the people that are bringing my movement to life.”

    Instilling life in “Black Jade” is important to Veluz as it will allow her audience to connect with her piece and the universal theme of burnout through mental and physical exertion. Her piece is focused less on the technical aspect of dance—while still rigorous, her choreography isn’t an arduous ballet routine. Veluz’s thesis is something that is physically demanding and challenging to her dancers while focusing on creating an emotional effect on the audience.

    “I really want the audience to take away some type of human experience,” Veluz said. “You really get to see how my dancers deteriorate physically, mentally and emotionally as my piece progresses, and I want that to manifest in the audience’s perspective.”

    Veluz and her three fellow MFA dance candidates will be showcasing their work at “Unthreaded and Raveled” at the Stevie Eller Dance Theater on May 7 at 1:30 and 7:30 p.m. and again on May 8 at 1:30 p.m. Tickets can be purchased in advance online for $10 or at the door for $12, with a discount for students and seniors.

    Read more: Dance grad tells a fantasy of being torn between two lovers.

    Follow Victoria Pereira on Twitter.

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