At this year’s Delaware Dance Festival on Sunday, February 16, Milford’s Diamond Dance Company (DDC) will perform an original piece choreographed by former DDC member and two-time Dance Delaware Scholarship winner, Victoria “Tori” Brown-O’Brien. The piece is entitled ‘In Pursuit of Liberation’ and will be performed by five current senior DDC members, Arlene Maheu, Maddie Carlson,Hayley Schuster, Heather Reid and Jordan Mitchell Adkins.
In Pursuit of Liberation is a story of five Jewish women and the struggles they faced within the confines of a concentration camp and the quest for freedom. Victoria created the piece in honor of her late great-grandmother Tatiana Akinfieva-Smith, who was thrown into a work camp when she refused to be a part of the Communist movement in Yugoslavia. In the prime of her career as a professional ballerina, she was forced to flee to another country where she continued teaching ballet.
“My great-grandmother taught me how to dance and was a huge part of my life,” commented Brown-O’Brien. “This piece pays tribute to her and all of those who went through that experience.”
Tori, a freshman at Old Dominion College in Virginia, began rehearsing with the dancers for the newly created piece when she was home for her five day Thanksgiving break. Inspired by a book she read for her European History course and a paper she wrote about her great-grandmother for an English course, Tori says that the piece came together naturally.
“I am really excited about the performance,” commented Tori. “I think it is a powerful piece, I see from watching the girls that it is very passionate. I want the audience to feel what those women went through.”
Ensuring historical accuracy is a key part of the performance, each woman depicted by the dancers is a real survivor of the Holocaust. Intended to be a very powerful piece, dancers are now finishing up learning the choreography and working on the emotion and passion as well as the intention and execution of movement. Only using the medium of dance to portray the struggle of the five survivors, Brown-O’Brien chose a contemporary dance style to reach the audience.
“The contemporary dance uses a lot of emotion, facial expression and body movements to show struggle and pain,” commented Tori. “The girls do an incredible job.”
This will be Tori’s fist piece that she has completely choreographed herself. She also played a large role in creating choreography for Diamond Dance Company’s performance of Wizard of Oz last Spring in Milford. In Pursuit of Liberation will see its first audience on Sunday, February 16 during the Delaware Dance Festival at the Grand Opera House in Wilmington, Delaware.
“I hope the audience realizes how important this history is to the world,” commented Tori. “This performance pays respect to the individuals that went through that struggle.”