In a swirl of complementary colors, NE student Leonel Lopez performs alongside his peers in a Korean contemporary dance.
NE Campus is home to Movers Unlimited. The pre-professional dance company has been under the instruction of dance professor Kihyoung Choi since 2011.
“It started to flourish and become bigger in, I think, 2012,” Choi said. “We had 13 members in the first year. And now, we have 42 members. So it’s going really, really big.”
The company’s mission is to “promote humanity, unity and diversity through the art of dance.” In addition to dance, community service is a large part of the group. Since 2012, they have raised approximately $12,000 and frequently volunteer and lead dance master classes.
“Our company does the dance but also does a lot of community service,” Choi said. “We focus a lot on community service. We give back to the community because that’s really important. We are giving back to the community through art and dancing.”
Every year, Choi choreographs a piece across the span of two semesters. They start with “circle talks,” a time when members of the company gather to provide their own input. Lopez views the time as a safe space.
“We talk very openly about some of our deepest and most concerning issues and things we’re facing not only here on campus but in our personal lives as well,” Lopez said. “Part of that is talking about what we wanted this piece to mean to each of us.”
The most recent piece they created, “Yeon: Bridging our Paths,” was inspired by Choi’s Buddhist upbringing. She created the piece with life and loss in mind. Yeon translates to lotus flower in Korean, a fixture of Buddhism.
“When I see the visual inspiration of this piece, it is a lotus flower,” Choi said. “The lotus flower comes from muddy water. So it’s like humans. We are going through, but we still flourish. We are struggling but are still going somewhere.”
Movers Unlimited was invited to perform at the Fort Worth Dance Festival on Sept. 23. In preparation, the company modified “Yeon: Bridging our Paths,” shortening the dance to 10 minutes from the initial 30 minutes. Dancing allowed NE student Rachel Ramsarran to channel her emotions.
“When I did this dance, I just felt completely exposed,” Ramasarran said. “When I think about it, all these raw emotions come out. And when I’m performing, I would just scream. It wasn’t even that I was tired. That’s just what I was feeling. That’s how I let out all my frustration, stuff I didn’t talk about or express.”
They were fifth in the lineup at the festival, following several professional dance companies. They received the first standing ovation of the night, even moving some to tears. NE dance adjunct instructor Najwa Seyedmorteza said she understands why the audience may have such a visceral reaction to the dance.
“We want the audience to see themselves in us while we’re dancing,” Seyedmorteza said. “There’s a point in the dance of vulnerability that comes out, and it’s inevitable. It’s just going to happen because of how tired and exhausted we are. I think it’s a very beautiful thing to see. And I think that’s why our audience is very touched by our work because I think at one point or another as humans we are in a place of vulnerability that is showcased in the art of dance.”
Looking forward, their next dance is already in production. Based on the moon, Movers Unlimited will premiere the dance on Dec. 1.
“In the Korean idea of the moon, the moon is much more powerful than the sun,” Choi said. “When we are hoping for something, when you are trying to conceive but you cannot have the baby, you go in the dark under the moon and you pray to whichever god you believe in. It’s about perseverance.”