Marshall Launches New Contemporary Dance Company


Bex Law, Student Reporter

Marshall University’s School of Theatre and Dance has launched a new contemporary dance company on Jan. 23, a dance and movement club that is open to all students, faculty and staff. MaShawn Morton and Shelby Nelson-Burcham, both adjunct professors from the School of Theatre and Dance, have partnered with Dr. Robin Conley Riner, a Marshall University anthropology professor, to lead the Marshall Contemporary Dance Company.

“The overall goal is for students to find a safe place for expression and experimentation through movement and creativity,” Morton said. Nelson-Burcham and Morton both expressed concern that movement and dance are underrepresented at the collegiate level, and Nelson-Burcham said she hopes that “students of all majors and pathways will come together to find joy and see themselves as artists.” 

Morton also said he “wants everyone to feel like they don’t have to say goodbye to the creative and movement-filled part of their life: they still participate and hold on to dance even though they are in academics now.”

Riner said this club can be whatever the members want it to be. She said, “We will have opportunities for them to learn choreography from us and visiting choreographers, perform, attend festivals and create their own work at Marshall and elsewhere.”

The Marshall Contemporary Dance Company meets every Monday and Wednesday from 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. in room 224 at the Joan C. Edwards Playhouse. Morton stressed that people who are “hungry for dance, movement and creativity” should feel encouraged to “drop in” whenever they are available. There is no audition process, and every level of experience from beginner to advanced are welcome. 

Riner has been a professional dancer for many years, including during the time she was pursuing a B.A. in Anthropology from NYU and a Ph.D. in Anthropology from UCLA. She continues to teach dance at Fourth Avenue Arts in Huntington and performs with the company Jeslyn Dance Gallery. Morton has been a professional dancer for 20 years after receiving his BFA in Dance from Point Park University. Nelson-Burcham is a self prescribed “dance artist and teaching artist,” graduating from University of the Arts and is passionate about making performing art more accessible in Appalachia.