This article was written by Ada Locke, an undergraduate senior in the College of Letters & Science. She will be graduating this Spring with a degree in Molecular & Cell Biology. Throughout her time as a student, she has participated in several physical education program classes (and loved them).
Music swells from the speaker as the dancers explore and navigate space. People trickle in and exchange their converse shoes for ballet slippers. Others, in socks or pointe shoes, practice spontaneous arabesques and pirouettes.
“Ballet is all about orienting bodies in space,” says Priya Shah, UC Berkeley dance educator and choreographer, to the dancers.
This isn’t a professional dance troupe, but rather Berkeley students of various experience levels preparing for their performance in the April Showcase on April 26th. A far-reaching tradition and diverse presentation, the April Showcase was first established in the 1980s.
“I helped to start the April Showcase with my previous dance colleague Phoebe Meyers,” explains Sue Li Jue, Physical Education Program Chair at UC Berkeley and long-time dance instructor. “I was hired back in 1986 to teach contemporary dance and jazz. Phoebe taught ballet then, and she had been here for many years. She and I thought it would be a good idea to create some sort of presentation for the students.”
With over thirty years experience on campus as a dance instructor, in addition to her time as a grant-winning choreographer and director of her own dance company, Facing East Dance & Music, Li Jue has experienced the evolution of the April Showcase and the physical education program firsthand.
“When we first put on the showcase, we would actually record from the LP record onto a reel to reel tape recorder.” Li Jue says. “It took hours, because we had to layout which piece was going to go first and record each piece in order. It was this massive effort at the time, but we were young and enthusiastic...And then from CDs it went quickly, almost in a flash, to digital music. And now we just have an iPod connector and create playlists.”
Despite everything that has changed over three decades, the enrichment of the Berkeley student experience remains at the core of the dance and exercise programs that the physical education department at Berkeley provides, Li Jue explains.
“That’s part of the education of dance -- to experience everything,” Li Jue says. “That’s why we have the showcase. That is the full circle of learning and practicing dance, the rehearsing aspect of becoming a performing artist, and finally the performance, and what that means to perform. And that’s why we do what it is that we do. You need all three parts.”
As Sue Li Jue looks to retirement and transitioning her projects to the next department head, she reflects on the long-lasting impact of the April showcase and her time here at Berkeley.
“Every year people come to the showcase, which makes it very easy for it to become a legacy,” Li Jue tells. “You rehearse a long time and the payoff, the performance part of it, is very short. No matter how short it is, even if it is a one night stand, it’s so amazing, so jubilant, that you would do it again in a heartbeat. Students are donating their precious, precious free time to work with the instructor and their peers to put something on for the showcase. So the process of rehearsal is as rewarding as the performance.”