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The student-run Modernextension Dance Company is preparing to dance among the many works of art in the Ackland Art Museum from 6-8 p.m. on Nov. 17. 

The group will create improvised dances based on observations and inspiration taken from the various pieces in the museum.

“Improvisation is basically where you dance off the top of your head,” Modernextension president Lacey McLamb said. "None of it's choreographed, the dancer is just making it up on their own the entire time.”

Though Modernextension performs improv shows annually, this is the first time it will be doing so in the Ackland.

The group's vice president of internal affairs, Mary Linaressaid the group has two main performances each year, including an improv show in the fall. This year’s improv show will take place at the Ackland and the second semester's fully-choreographed performance will occur in April at Chapel Hill High School.

The club has used more common dance spaces, but decided to take their improv show in a new direction this year, inspired by a site-specific performance hosted at the Ackland by UNC’s discontinued modern dance class.

“So we knew that that was an avenue that we could take and we reached out to them, and they were amazing and were willing to work with us,” Linares, said

Dancers stationed throughout the gallery will interpret the art in their designated area, picking up on themes and motifs within the art to inform their performances. McLamb and Lila Wilson, the vice president of external affairs, will lead the audience on a tour through the different galleries and dancers in the Ackland. 

Planning the show poses its own new challenges.

According to McLamb, the group will not be attempting to structure any of the performances, which can be tricky to make sure they won't disturb any art pieces.

“We put so much work every week into practicing for these,” McLamb said. “So it really pays off by the end of both semesters, getting to see what we've been working for through hours out of the week.”

McLamb said the dance company is composed of a very tight-knit group of student dancers that often get together for hangouts, or what they call socials.

“We come into the studio and everyone's asking you about your day like, ‘Oh, what exams do you have coming up?’” Linares said. “And then we meet up for our socials and everything and it's a good time for everyone to catch up with each other, and then we definitely have a rapport of talking with each other and being friends with each other.”

Modernextension has provided many student dancers with an outlet to express their love for dance, including Sarah Haurey, the company's social and fundraising chair.

“In 2020, with COVID and everything, it was really hard for me to find an outlet on campus, and I danced in the past, but I had to quit in high school,” Haurey said. “So when I was coming to Carolina, dance was something that I really wanted to pick back up again.”

Members of Modernextension also take the time to give back to their community by participating with organizations like Carolina Cupboard.

For those looking to join, the club typically hosts one audition in the first few weeks of the fall semester. Updates on the company can be found on their Instagram, @mxdancecompany.  

@dthlifestyle |

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