Dancers and choreographers alike can attest: one of the most intriguing aspects of any dance is the story it tells. Each dancer has a story in their feet, whether it’s explicitly stated or kept personal to the individual who creates it.
For senior Mark Malcom, a dance major at Missouri State, dance doesn’t just tell a story—dance is his story.
Mark was just four and a half when his mother took him to his first dance class in Montgomery, Alabama. “I think I was just a little bit too young for what they wanted to teach, but they let me come in and take classes because I really wanted to learn,” Mark remembers.
From there, Mark’s relationship with dance was on-again, off-again—but the passion remained. He took a break from dance to pursue other interests; his mother convinced him to pick it up again when Mark moved to Washington, D.C.
“She heard this group was coming in; they were offering dance lessons for a pre-professional level for anyone who wanted to audition and try out for them. She told me, ‘You’ve done it before. Why not?’” Mark recalls.
Early interests, new horizons
Much like Mark himself, his dancing style has evolved and grown over the years. He began with ballet. “For years and years I was just ballet, ballet, ballet. That was my only mindset,” he says.
His teachers eventually convinced him to try other types of dance. “They said, ‘Okay. Let’s get you into a variety of classes, and let’s see how you work.’” Most recently, this led to his interest in modern dance.
When asked which is his favorite, Mark hesitates to choose. “I think I prefer modern nowadays. There’s a structure to it, but it’s more of a freeform structure, compared to ballet’s rigid structure. I kind of like how it’s set up like that,” he elaborates.
Mark’s current piece, which was adjudicated at the American College Dance Association regional conference, is a modern dance, called Viribus. This piece was inspired by strong, powerful movement and by the dancers themselves.
“I wanted to play with movement ideas from [famed choreographer] William Forsythe and his improvisational technologies, and I wanted to play with the ideas of lines.”
Viribus was born rather unconventionally: the dancers came first and the choreography came second. “I originally walked into the auditions with a firm idea of what I wanted, but right before they started, I thought, ‘Why do I want to have an idea of what I want right now? Why don’t I want to see what it becomes?’ Once I decided on my dancers, it was like, ‘Okay. Let’s see what we can build with these people.’”
Viribus is also unique in that Mark didn’t set a specific narrative. “It’s really movement for movement’s sake,” Mark says. “If you find a story in it and you relate to something in it, you can build a story with yourself. The dancers each have stories they each see within it, and I have a story as well.”
The Viribus dancers are all female, and Mark wanted to highlight the strength within the women. “The whole idea started out with lines, and after seeing these female dancers move through the space, it really struck me: it was strong. That’s where the name ‘viribus,’ which is Latin for ‘strength,’ came from.”
The dancers often surprised him in rehearsals. “Nadia [Stine] one day went to the wall and was like, ‘This is how I relax,’ and she does a handstand propped up against the wall. And I looked at her a moment and was like, ‘I want that in the piece,’” Mark remembers.
He and the dancers then began to utilize the wall within the choreography. “Almost every day there was this ‘oh my gosh’ moment where something they did made it even better. It was always just fun to see, fun to watch.”
This wasn’t Mark’s first time choreographing, and it won’t be his last. “I find myself loving choreography because I love the process,” he says. “Something keeps drawing me back to dance.”
His next step? Pursuing a master’s degree in dance.
- Written and produced by: Jacqueline Crawford
- Videographer: Jacqueline Crawford
- Editor: Lucie Amberg
- Photographer: Lucie Amberg
- Dancers: Olivia Morgenthaler and Nadia Stine