As the music starts, Chiara Evans '21 dips her hips and arches her back. Her fingers pulse to the sounds of bells and xylophones. After a few seconds, she steps forward, bobbing her head, hips and hands from side to side like a metronome, and the dance begins.
As Evans turns, twists and slides across the stage of the Weis Center for the Performing Arts, accelerating and slowing her movements in time with the rhythm, she re-enacts a performance she put on at Bucknell set to sounds she encountered at a wedding in Bali, where she traveled to perform with members of Bucknell University's gamelan ensemble the summer after her first year of college.
The scene is much different today. There is no audience, silk-and-gold-clad revelers or sumptuous feast to follow. In fact, the auditorium is empty save for Evans and a few essential staff — but that doesn't mean no one is watching. In fact, she has an audience of well over 100 that's growing every day.
That's because Evans' dance is part of the Weis Center Sessions, an online performance series launched this summer on YouTube by Bucknell's home for the performing arts. As public health protocols have preempted large indoor gatherings amid the pandemic, the videos, which collectively have been viewed thousands of times, have enabled the center to continue its mission of bringing arts and culture to the Central Pennsylvania region. At the same time, the series has given students, faculty and staff a unique outlet to showcase their creativity and talents.
"While we miss gathering together for live performances, we're thrilled with the wide range of artistry that's being shared — everything from Balinese dance to classical piano to Uilleann pipes," says Kathryn Maguet, the center's executive director. "Through this program, we've not only sought to highlight the Weis Center's technical capabilities but also to shine a light on Bucknell's diverse artistic community."
New videos are posted to the center's YouTube channel and blog each Friday, and run a diverse gamut of creative expression, including classical and contemporary music, dance and spoken-word performances.
For student artists, the series offers a chance to continue expressing the passion, creativity and technical precision they've polished at Bucknell while connecting with audiences they may never have reached otherwise.
Replaying the video on her computer screen gives Evans a surreal tingle every time, as her performance is one she could never have imagined giving before she came to college. Trained in ballet from the age of four, the biology major from Natick, Mass., chose Bucknell for the opportunity to study dance alongside her science major. From her very first semester, when she learned modern, African-inspired dances with guest company Urban Bush Women, she was surprised to find herself pushed beyond the boundaries of who she thought she was and what she could do.
"I had thought of myself in a kind of narrow way — like I do one thing and that's why I don't do anything else," she says. "Coming to Bucknell threw that wide open and gave me the chance to say yes, I can do this and this — and this other thing. And they all go together."