Dancers explore human connection

Megan Mizanty and Rori Smith present their theses in the final MFA thesis concert of the spring.

Megan Mizanty choreographs her dancers through her MFA thesis piece, “An Attachment.” Mizanty’s piece was inspired by observing her students’ needs to always be on their phones. | ABI REIMOLD / TTN
Megan Mizanty choreographs her dancers through her MFA thesis piece, “An Attachment.” Mizanty’s piece was inspired by observing her students’ needs to always be on their phones. | ABI REIMOLD / TTN

Megan Mizanty and Rori Smith will each present their individual theses as part of “After Bodies,” the final master of fine arts in dance thesis concert of this semester at Conwell Dance Theater. While “After Bodies” isn’t the title of either of their individual pieces, Mizanty said the title encompasses both of the core ideas of their works.

“After Bodies has a few different meanings for us, I think,” Mizanty said. “My thesis deals a lot with technology and with how people are changing because of their technological devices and kind of looking more into the future of what’s going to happen when our reliance on technology becomes very, very prevalent in our lives.”

Part of the name came after the creation of their poster for the concert, which features hundreds of tiny repeated images of Mizanty and Smith dancing.

“We did the photo shoot before we came up with the title of the piece and they kind of influenced one another,” Mizanty said. “When we were looking through [the images] we were thinking it would be interesting if it were not only the two of us but lots of versions of the two of us and that kind of led us to the idea of multiplicity and numerous versions of oneself and that’s how we came up with ‘After Bodies.’”

The idea for Mizanty’s piece, “An Attachment,” came from observing how her students were constantly on their phones before and after her class.

“It made me start thinking,” she said. “People are really changing the way they navigate their daily lives.”

The piece focuses on human attachment to electronic devices and becoming device-like, she said. It features dancers Minh Nguyen, Michael Nguyen, Melissa Rodis, Kate Abernethy, Crystal Albrecht, Joanna Martin as well as Mizanty herself. The performance also features the live vocal performances of Hilary Bucell and Joanna Martin.

Smith’s work also has a similar theme to Mizanty’s.

“I’m interested in how and why we create digital versions of ourselves, how we relate to those digital versions and then how they, in their existence, start to shape us in the physical,” Smith said. “In my piece I’m using large scale projections of my dancers and they function in a ghostly, kind of ambient way that is kind of trail or trace that comes after the dancers body.”

Throughout her piece, “Skin your ghost and wear it,” Smith said she examines how social media and digital devices affect young adults.

“We are surrounded by screens, and on these screens we capture other versions of ourselves that then define how we see our physical [selves],” Smith said. “So when the image of a person is really locked in that digital space instead of in the physical.”

The work features the live and digitized performances of Shailer Kern-Carruth, Megan Quinn and Ariel Zablocki.

“So what I’m doing in my piece is setting up my dancers with an impossible task where they want to make physical skin-to-skin connection with digital images,” Smith said. “In trying to go through this impossible task, they develop or define a specific relationship with their digital image, they also feel the impact of the digital impact on their bodies so by trying to get there, by trying to make the contact, they’re forced to do specific things to their bodies in space in the dance.”

Smith said this represents how they might interact with an image of themselves on the Internet.

Smith and Mizanty’s pasts have influenced their current works. Both studied fields other than dance during their undergraduate years – Smith studied anthropology at Temple, while Mizanty studied English at Ithaca College.

“I think it’s fair to say for both of us, that we’ve taken parts of ourselves with our other disciplines and steeped it in the works that we’ve created in dance,” Mizanty said. “I think we’ve never actually thought about it but we have really brought in our past selves into our work quite strongly in a good way.”

After graduation, both Smith and Mizanty plan on continuing their dance careers in Philadelphia.

“Now that we’re graduating, we can really start to get to know the expansive dance community in Philadelphia because there’s so many different places we can get to go to, and just finding avenues and places to make work and create work and to be part of the works of others,” Mizanty said.

Performances will be on Friday, April 12, at 7:30 p.m. with a reception following the show, and two performances at 2:30 p .m. and 7:30 p.m. on Sat., April 13. Prices vary from $5 to $20.

Kristen Gillette can be reached at

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