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Dance Theatre performance honors alumna six months after her death

Contributed by Lana Kay Rosenberg

Miami Dance Theatre Company performs As We Are in 2007, and again on Saturday and Sunday. Hannah Copeland Neal, a 2009 alumna who passed away last year, is pictured on the left as a performer. She choreographed the dance her sophomore year at Miami.

By Grace Moody, News Editor

The Miami Dance Theatre Company performed a dance dedicated to Hannah Copeland Neal, a Miami alumna ('09) who died of melanoma in the fall, during its annual spring concert on Saturday and Sunday.

After battling cancer for over two years, Neal passed away in October. According to Lana Kay Rosenberg, the director of Dance Theatre, Neal was very passionate about dance and always showed up to the studio with a smile on her face.

Because of Neal's positive impact on Dance Theatre, the company performed a dance tribute to her.

"We wanted to do something in honor of her memory," Rosenberg said.

Neal originally choreographed this dance in 2007, during her sophomore year at Miami. It was first performed in April 2007 by a cast of 10 members, including Neal. The dance was reconstructed and restaged this spring to be performed a second time, with a different cast. The dance is titled "As We Are" and was performed with the song "Wonderwall."

Rosenberg individually selected members of the current company to imitate the cast members in Neal's original dance. She chose them based on re-watching a videotape of the original dance.

"Each of the current dancers, to the best of our abilities, were following someone in the original cast," Rosenberg said.

Published in the concert's program were words from Neal about the dance. She described the theme of the dance as friendship.

"The theme is roughly based around friendships and how they seem to change over time," Neal wrote.

Taylor Sieve, a senior in Dance Theatre, said the performance was amazing. Sieve choreographed another dance in the concert and did not participate in "As We Are" herself, but spoke highly of the hard work of the 10 dancers who were involved.

"I would come in and they were always there and were very focused on what they were doing," Sieve said. "I think a lot of them felt very connected by the time they got to perform it on stage."

Rosenberg said she received much positive feedback from the dance. She said emotions were high within Hall Auditorium during the performance.

"When you lose someone at such a young age who has lost her life to cancer, it is very moving," Rosenberg said.

Friends of Neal were at the concert, and hugged and cried together at the end of the piece.

After Neal's graduation in 2009, she and Rosenberg stayed in touch and saw each other for the last time in August. Neal had gotten married and wanted Rosenberg to meet her husband.

"They drove from Atlanta to Oxford in August of 2013 so I could meet him and she could be in the dance studio again," Rosenberg said. "It was so beautiful. It meant a lot to her to be back at the studio in Miami. She really loved it here."

Neal is deeply missed by family and friends. Rosenberg said she is grateful for Neal's positive character and passion for the arts.

"For many who knew her, you miss her in a very heartfelt kind of way."