TUPELO – As a choreographer, Roxie Doniphan Thomas is responsible for telling dancers what she wants.
“I need it to be Whoom! Shoom! Whaa! Like that,” the 26-year-old Tupelo native said, waving her arms in the air.
Those aren’t necessarily technical terms, but her team of nine dancers didn’t flinch. They’ve been working for about three weeks to put together “An Evening of Dance,” a free showcase presented by The Doniphan Project dance troupe and Tupelo Community Theatre.
“We’re doing eight pieces, and it’s a wide range of styles,” Thomas said.
There’s an Elvis suite with “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Devil in Disguise” and “Hound Dog.” Blues musician Stevie Ray Vaughan will add to the mood of another piece, and the dancers will perform a celebration of life and cherry blossoms that includes opera and sounds Thomas blended together on her computer.
“To me, it’s hard to make up a dance for one piece of music,” she said. “The dance progresses, so how can the music stay the same?”
Help from friends
Some of the work originated during her undergraduate days at the University of Mississippi, and others were created at Shenandoah University in Virginia.
Rebekah Nickerson, 22, of Williamsburg, Va., is one of six dancers who met Thomas at Shenandoah and decided to spend an unpaid summer dancing in Tupelo.
“Roxie’s been talking about doing this for about a year,” she said.
At school, Nickerson performed in a Hurricane Katrina piece that’s included on the Tupelo program.
“It had to be changed to fit the performers,” she said. “The thing about choreography is it evolves over time.”
Dancers have come from Virginia, Maryland, Georgia, Canada and Spain. There also are three dancers from Lee County.
Adonus Mabry of Verona is the only male in the group, so he gets to do most of the lifting.
“This is a great opportunity,” he said. “It’s a chance to see modern dance in Tupelo.”
Thomas said her goal is to base a modern dance company in Mississippi, but that’s long-term planning. For now, The Doniphan Project is a summer experiment, and everyone’s welcome to see the results on Friday.
“It’s exciting when everything comes together to create something for the community,” Thomas said. “That’s what it’s about: creating something cool for the community.”
Contact M. Scott Morris at (662) 678-1589 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
At the Lyric
– What: “An Evening of Dance” presented by The Doniphan Project and Tupelo Community Theatre
– When: 8 p.m. Friday
– Where: The Lyric Theatre
– Tickets: Free, but donations will be accepted for TCT’s scholarship fund
– Info: (662) 844-1935
– Cast: Jacquelle Blythe, Natasha Poon Woo, Rebekah Nickerson, Lizzie Fink, Stacie Cannon, Maria Roig Tio, Adonus Mabry, Allison Griswold, Sara Plunkett, Roxie Doniphan Thomas
– Singers: Lane Chapel Quartet with Mary Frances Karrant and Vicki Wilson
– Crew: Roxie Doniphan Thomas (choreographer), Christopher Ham (technical director)
M. Scott Morris/NEMS Daily Journal