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‘I like to get involved. I find that I work best when I am busy, so I like to try and put myself in as many things as possible. I like to help people. I kind of like to have hands everywhere, so whenever I can get involved, I like to dive right in.’

Lexie Thrash (’16)

Are you dancing a lot here at JMU?

I took 15 dance classes my senior year in high school, so I was at the studio from 3:30 to 8 or 9 every night after school. And then I came here and initially as a freshman I didn’t really get as many classes, so I was really not cool with that, but that’s just how it goes freshman year. Sophomore year, you really start the ball rolling, and that’s when you can audition for the Virginia Repertory Dance Company, which I did. And then this year, junior year, I’ve been dancing so, so much, which has been great. For Rep, I had to audition, interview, write and resume and do a Letter of Intent for why I want to dance in college. So you start with just a few classes freshman year, and then it picks up sophomore year because you automatically become a part of the Contemporary Dance Ensemble, which you stay in the rest of undergrad. That gives you the opportunity to perform in the spring if you’re not in the Rep company. If you are in Rep, you perform in a MainStage show. That’s a very rewarding experience. There are only nine of us in Rep — and it’s an entire 1-hour, 45-minute MainStage show. I was in four of the eight pieces. It was a lot of work and time and energy, and that was right before fall semester finals. It was super hard but so rewarding.

Is the major more than dancing?

We take movement classes, and we also take dance history, anatomy, performance production where we learn about how to light a stage and do sound. We take a design class with musical theater and theater majors called Visual Aspects, where we learn how to create costumes, how to design lighting, how to design a set. So we actually sketch out costume designs and make a model box of a set. An advantage of this department is that as a dance major, you come out with thorough knowledge of the entire theater. You come out of this program and you know how to run a show by yourself. That is empowering. As a young artist, I think that gives us a leg up.

More from the College of Arts and Letters: JMU in LA Program

How about your SMAD classes?

I just started with my School of Media Arts and Design major courses. I stayed in May to take two prerequisite courses and then just took the first course in the major this semester. I never thought I’d be able to find another thing that excites me, that feeds my artistic energy as much as dance, but SMAD really does. In high school, I was always really interested in making videos and posting on social media and advertising things, and I really didn’t think I could find a major that did that, but I did. SMAD allows me to do the PR advertising kinds of things that I enjoy, as well as be artistic. During summer school, I learned how to code a website. It was so interesting to me and I was really good at it. It’s so cool. I am such a nerd sometimes. And I love the fact that the SMAD foundations courses set you up no matter what your concentration, so I know how to create a video and do the sound and how to use GarageBand and things like that. I know Photoshop and Illustrator. I got to make a blog this semester in my class — which is kind of an introduction into public relations and advertising and what those areas entail. All of that is what I love to do, and some of that love comes from the SMAD major itself.

Your site-specific dance project sounds interesting.

I wanted to make it somewhere off campus and I stumbled upon this church downtown, Westside Baptist Church. It’s up on a hill and kind of isolated, but it has the most beautiful view of the mountains, and when the sun rose there were all these colors. It was spiritual. God was there. I choreographed. My dancer Kelley Biglin performed. We could choose to be in it or have others be in it. We were asked to strongly think out time of day, space, concept, what we want to say, how do we want to start and end. It went really well. I had it like a drive-in movie, so that all the people who came to watch were in their cars, and I gave them each the same soundtrack, an a cappella version of “Oh Lord, What a Morning,” which I’d describe as a soothing, calm chant. I juxtaposed it with what happens with the soloist. She is coming back to the church, but she doesn’t get exactly what she wants because the doors are locked and she can’t get in. I kept the setting serene and the music peaceful throughout, which made for an interesting effect as the soloist sort of went into a bit of a rage. It was totally intentional, and it was a truly exhilarating experience.

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Lexie Thrash (’16)

Major: Dance and Media Arts and Design
Concentration: Corporate Communication with an interest in PR and advertising
Hometown: Frederick, Md.
Highlights: SMAD in LA internship and study abroad program 2015; Outstanding Freshman Award in the School of Theater and Dance; choreographer for MainStage performance of Chekov's The Cherry Orchard; choreography selected for Student Dance Concerts Spring and Fall 2014; accomplished photographer.

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