Dancers grace the stage

By Marissa Novel

Dancing for some is a weekend hobby, but for others, it is a lifelong passion. Those passions were displayed for visitors, community members and students alike this weekend.

Thirty-three Southern Illinois Dance Company members performed a diverse set of dances to the likes of Beyoncé, Nicki Minaj and Ariana Grande for their fall concert Friday and Saturday at Furr Auditorium.


Donna Wilson, artistic director of the company, said the group previously had about 20 members, but in the last five years the group has grown to more than 30.

Wilson, who previously danced with companies near Los Angeles, said the popularity of dance has increased, and she believes it is because of dance-oriented television shows such as “So You Think You Can Dance.”

That has influenced our dance interest across the nation,” said Wilson, who became the artistic director for SIDC in 1985 after the only other dance teacher left the university.

Wilson said dancers audition during the second week of the semester, and begin practice the following week. She said the company is primarily SIU students, but is also open to community members.

“Sometimes it becomes a big headache… and my husband says ‘Well, you don’t have to do it.’ But I do,” Wilson said. “My life wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t.”

Becca Lewis, president of the company, said the group is like a family.

“It’s definitely one of the biggest parts of why I love SIU so much,” said Lewis, who has been in the company for nine semesters.


Lewis, a senior from Lake Forest studying zoology, said this year’s concert featured hip-hop, contemporary, theatrical modern and ballet genres. She said students studying a diverse range of subjects choreograph most of the dances.

“We all come from different backgrounds and we’re all bringing different styles of dance,” Lewis said.

Lewis said she also enjoys learning about less common styles of dance such as Latin, African and improvisational.

“Pretty much anything you can think of, you get a chance to experience,” she said. “That’s always fun and changes from semester to semester.”

Devin Wade, a cosmetology student at John A. Logan College, said being in the company has helped her grow more as a dancer.

Wade, 22, of Herrin, said she discovered the company in 2012 through a friend she teaches dance classes with for kids 3 to 18 at Arabesque, a dance studio in Carterville.

“I feel like I get to explore more things being with people my own age,” she said.

Wade said she also appreciates choreographing for the group.

“I can give them anything and they’ll just run with it,” she said. “It’s wonderful to have someone understand what my vision is.”

Wade, who has been dancing for nearly 20 years, said the company is willing to work with anyone who shows interest, dedication and potential.

“We want to take people and develop them into more than what they think they could be,” she said.

Jeremiah Beasley, a freshman from Champaign studying musical theatre, said the company and his dance classes have helped him branch out from his style of choice, hip-hop.

“They’ve been a really big help, helping my technique and cleaning my movements,” he said.

Beasley said he hopes to choreograph dances next semester.

“Hopefully I also get into a ballet or jazz dance next semester instead of hip-hop so I can broaden my horizons,” he said.

Marissa Novel can be reached at , on Twitter @marissanovelDE or at 536-3311 ext. 268.