Andrew Mendez/Nevada Sagebrush. Student performers at UNR’s Fall Dance Festival on Saturday, Nov. 17. The night was full of heartbreaking portrayals of mental illness, female suppression and violence.

The University of Nevada, Reno’s Department of Theatre and Dance Performance showcased the Fall Dance Festival from Thursday, Nov. 15 till Saturday, Nov. 17. Dancers tackled themes related to mental illness, materialism and and violence during their spectacular performances in Redfield Proscenium Theatre at the Church Fine Arts.

The festival included 11 dances choreographed by students and faculty, ranging in styles from modern, social, ballet and interpretive dance.

Six dancers kicked off the festival by performing a ballet, with three of them dressed in blue and three dressed in black. The dancers split the stage and seemed to almost battle with each other as music played in the background. The audience’s eyes were glued to the stages the dancers perfmored “Vigore di Vivaldi”.

Dance major Noelle Ruggieri composed and perfmored her own piece “8.5 X 11, Uncoated, 75g/m^2”. She wore a dress made of paper, and would periodically pull out paper planes from her costume to throw across the stage. Each time a plane was pulled from her dress, Ruggieri would intimately and playfully engage with them, and at times she even looked at the ground away from the audience to to interact with the makeshift props.  There was no music accompanying this piece, allowing the audience to hear the crinkling of paper as Ruggieri danced about whimsically.

As her performance unfolded (no pun intended), the audience gradually discovered the theme of her piece was the difficulty of letting things go. Ruggieri best expressed this theme when, at one point, she was about to throw a plane and hesitated to do so. At the end of her performance, Ruggieri went around to pick up each paper plane and stuck them back in her dress.

The show continued with “Rx”, choreographed by student Breanna Gambini. The performance brought to light issues of mental illness and how voices can play with an individual’s head.

During this piece, audience members were aware of a dancer in the corner of the stage, shaking her hand next to her head aggressively as if she were in pain. Subtlety dancers began walking across the stage and the main dancer joined in, shaking her hands periodically.

As the piece progressed, her hand continued to shake more and more until she began bouncing off to other dancers, signaling a call for help. However, she was denied help from the other dancers and seemed to lose hope, before collapsing altogether. Once she collapsed, other dancers huddled towards her and gave her a hug despite rejecting her moments before. The audience was drawn in with jumps from person to person and the light reflecting on the main dancer.   

The show continued by highlighting a performance centered around femininity, and how society has placed certain stigmas on how a woman should look and act.

For this portion, dancers were dressed as 1960s housewives with audio playing in the background, which described a traditional view of women’s role in society. In an attempt to show the other side of the story, rock music began playing as dancers performed acted like demons by screeching, crawling and biting.

Despite the festival starting out with a ballet performance, dancers and choreographers took it upon themselves to highlight issues seen in everyday society. The night was filled with both beautiful shows of dance and heartbreaking portrayals of an ugly reality.


Andrew Mendez/Nevada Sagebrush.