Social Justice Not Extinct Through “Extinction”

PICTURED ABOVE // Hockaday senior Megan Ortman and her fellow dancers convey messages about social justice and world issues through their dance performance. Ortman thrives upon the stage as she and her peers bring to light certain issues that they strongly believe in. Photo provided by Megan Ortman


On the weekend of Aug. 17, senior Megan Ortman and nine other dancers took the Hamon Hall stage at the Winspear Opera House for the dance performance “Extinction,” the fourth installation in a five year series of performances about social justice and the ever-changing world.

This is Ortman’s third year participating in the series, titled the “Extinction Project.” It is hosted by Junior Players, a nonprofit based in Dallas with the goal of “encourag[ing] intellectual growth, mental well-being and the development of life skills in the youth of North Texas through mentoring, creative expression and participation in dramatic and arts activities,” according to their website.

Ortman and her fellow dancers endured four weeks of training, practicing four to five hours a day. During this time they were not only dancing but working intensely on other aspects of the show. All 10 worked together with three different choreographers and the director to decide on the issues that they would tackle and what music best suited their message in their yearly show.

“We get all the dancers, choreographers and directors in one place and they ask us, ‘Okay, what’s wrong with the world? What problems are you and your friends facing?’” Ortman said. “From that big master list, those are the topics that the dances are about.”

The series of performances titled respec- tively are “Transformation,” “Evolution,” “Meta- morphosis,” “Extinction” and “Revolution.” All five of these are centered around the idea of change in the political and social world, and the internal change that we all go through as we grow older and become more exposed to the problems that society is facing.

According to one of the choreographers, Sara Romersberger, this year’s show centered around the questions “What are we doing that is killing us and each other? What is happening, that if we don’t change, means that we won’t be around any longer?” For example, the dancers chose the problem of teen suicide as the inspiration for one of their dances.

Romersberger, a movement specialist and Associate Professor of Theatre at Southern Methodist University Meadows School of the Arts, is one of the three choreographers that worked with the dancers. Yet the choreography wasn’t strictly hers; Romersberger collaborated with the dancers to come up with choreography that would include their ideas, too.

“I create a minute of choreography and put it on them, but then I look at how they move and adjust the work to their bodies and their abilities. Sometimes I have them improvise and create so that they can take ownership of the work,” Romersberger said.

Ortman did not find it hard to come up with appropriate songs and dance moves. She is well-versed in the world of social activism, which is one of the reasons why she enjoys performing with the Extinction Project.

“I really liked how it was combining two things I am passionate about: social justice and activism but with that artistic component that is so important to me,” Ortman said.

The sensitivity of the issues combined with the truthful dances and music lyrics often evokes emotion from the audience, such as a number about the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando.

“A lot of people that attend the shows cry,” Romersberger said. “Parents said they didn’t realize, and by looking at the stu- dents do the work made them realize the kind of discussions they needed to have with their child.”

Senior Parker Waters also attend- ed “Extinction,” and left with a newfound sense of knowledge about social issues.

“The way they were portraying it made it seem evident in today’s world,” Waters said. “I wouldn’t say that I think about some of the issues a lot, but after they do the dances it made you realize how prominent [the issues] were.”


Story by Ponette Kim

Photo provided by Megan Ortman

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Ponette Kim

Ponette is a lover of coffee, rowing, Italian landscapes and her dog, Honey. You can find her at Bachman Lake or at home in bed, reading. In five years, she hopes to be living in New York City.

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