Choreographed dances don’t get much love in pop culture after the destructive influence of “High School Musical,” but students have the chance to appreciate quality choreographed dances on campus this weekend.

“Leverage” features eight dances created by UNM choreography students. The dances include fusion pieces, flamenco numbers, and contemporary works that display the breadth of UNM’s dance program.

Some dances draw heavily from the artists’ lives. Choreographer and dancer Sun-Ah Lee said her dance is based on her experiences.

“My piece is about loneliness,” she said. “I came from South Korea. I came here and felt lonely because my family and friends live in Korea and there was nobody here. I am married, so I have my husband and kids, but I always miss my parents, my sister and my friends.”

Other pieces, such as Dara Minkin’s “Bakkheian,” feature fusions of Middle Eastern, American tribal and other dance influences from around the country.

“I’m excited for being recognized as an entity here,” she said. “I hope that (continues in the) future. … It’s a process to be recognized.”

Minkin said her piece tells a story. In about 8 1/2 minutes, her choreography details the struggle between morality and immorality in a narrative about warring Greek factions.

“Originally I wasn’t going to explain what it was about,” she said. “Initially, I didn’t really care if people understood it or not. As this whole process has been coming along — I have been going through my own journey with this piece.”

Other pieces focus on traditional dance forms, including choreographer Illeana Gomez’s flamenco numbers. Gomez said the style of dance doesn’t matter — the art is always personal.

“You can’t hide your body when you are performing,” she said. “That is you, totally exposed. You don’t have a thing that you produce. You are the production. It can be very vulnerable, it can be very emotional. Dance has the potential to communicate across barriers.”

Gomez said dancing is difficult to begin with, but it becomes even more so when choreographers have to direct their vision to include other dancers.

“You have to use imagery; you have to use feeling; you have to use memory,” she said. “If you want something to feel a certain way, then talk about it first. Of course you learn the movement, then you have to talk about where it’s initiated from emotionally. The same goes for the performance of it, the way the dancer understands it and then portrays it. Where is it coming from? What are they feeling in that place? And then you tell the story.”

With the performance drawing nearer, the choreographers are working twice as hard to practice their finished pieces, Minkin said, but they’re have fun doing it.
“I almost feel like this piece has taken me for a ride,” she said. “And I don’t feel that I’m necessarily the one in control. I have put lots and lots of energy into it. I don’t know what the product is going to be.”

Gomez said “Leverage” promotes the art of dance, and the process of creating it.
“It makes me proud,” she said. “You always want to cultivate your personal voice and your own message. I think this is a really great opportunity for the students to do that, and I think they represent the department well.”

Carlisle Gym
Friday, 7 p.m.
$10 adults, $5 students *