A new piece of choreography, titled “Go Before You’re Ready,” begins with 10 students in a V formation, running in place in unison for two minutes.

They begin to splinter off into floor work, often criss-crossing the length of the black dance floor in the Open Space in the University of Montana’s PAR/TV Center during a rehearsal on Wednesday ahead of this weekend’s concerts.

Unison somersault-like moves and elegant slides, pairs swirling in motion, even a false ending with congratulatory gestures. It’s been a work in progress that the UM dancers have been building from scratch this semester.

University of Montana Dance Benefit Concert

“Anything in life will just happen, and you just have to sometimes go before you’re actually ready to go,” said Jake Cowden, a senior majoring in dance.

“Go Before You’re Ready” was designed for them by Noel Price-Bracey, an award-winning choreographer based in Washington who came to Missoula to work with students for three days in January. She’s the artistic director of PRICEarts Never Ending Work dance project, and teaches at eXitSPACE School of Dance in Seattle and Washington School of Dance in Bothell, Washington.

Price-Bracey has made works with direct themes, Cowden said, but this one was started in movement alone, and the idea nested in the title. Later, they all sat down and talked about references and analogies to machines and clockwork.

Seely Garrett, a junior majoring in psychology and pre-dance therapy at the University of Montana, said, they could “sense, as a group, what it was starting to allude to” after full days of rehearsals with Price-Bracey.

To Cowden, it’s about how “we are each individual and unique about it, but then we all piece together perfectly,” he said.

Fundraising effort

The students in the University of Montana School of Theatre & Dance have been preparing this piece for the weekend’s benefit concerts, which raise money for a trip to the American College Dance Association’s Northwest Regional Conference, held in March in Salt Lake City. (See box for more information.)

Besides “Go Before You’re Ready,” the school will bring a work by student choreographer Hannah Dusek called “Shifting Once Again,” for an adjudicated concert. Zoe Dehline’s “20 (or more) Questions” will be performed at an informal concert.

This year, 29 students will head to the conference. Dance professor Brooklyn Draper said last year’s conference in Oregon wasn’t quite at full capacity, but this year there will be around 500. It’s a chance to compete, take workshops and classes, and see what other schools are doing. It’s a highlight of the year, Draper said, as UM has the sole dance program in the state.

After the time in Missoula, the collaboration didn’t stop. Faith Morrison, a professor of dance at UM, continued to lead the rehearsals. They shot videos to send to Price-Bracey to get feedback, and consult with her on costume ideas. On Saturday, she’ll appear via Zoom for a talkback after the show.

Cowden said that after an initial phase getting to know her teaching style, the process became collaborative, and they helped design their own movements in some sections.

The work, made for a diverse set of students, is different from what it would be if she’d collaborated with a different group elsewhere.

“She choreographed on what she had, versus coming in with something,” Garrett said.