Lights, Camera, Action: Sneak Peek at the 2013 Follies

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Dan O'Neill standing and holding DiAnne Davis in a stretched out pose

In the months leading up to the big show, third-year medical student DiAnne Davis and fourth-year dual-degree M.D./M.P.H. student Dan O’Neill, MSIV, are busy pulling ideas from what’s hot in pop culture. The pair are preparing the choreography for the spring 2013 medical school follies, and that means taking a break from residency interviews and rotation routines to pour over the latest music videos and comb the Internet for new music and fresh moves.

Each spring, medical students at GW’s School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS) embark upon an annual rite of passage, taking their talents from the classroom to the stage to perform parodies, skits, and choreographed dance numbers in a time-honored tradition known as the follies. This year, the duo of Davis and O’Neill reunite for their third and final collaboration. More than a month out, the pair are already back in the dance studio, hard at work choreographing three performances for this year’s follies, which take the stage March 29. This year’s production promises to pack a lot of energy and a few surprises. “I don’t think the audience is going to expect the different style of dance we have incorporated into our performances,” said Davis. “We are really trying to take it to the next level.”

O’Neill and Davis are switching it up this year by choreographing three different dances with three unique styles. This year’s playlist consists of “Let's Have a Kiki,” a popular song by the American pop band Scissor Sisters, “Try,” by singer/songwriter Pink, and “Titanium,” by DJ/music producer David Guetta and rapper Nicki Minaj. The pair let it slip that one performance will include an element of acrobatics. However, they aren’t revealing any more details about the three performances.

“Every year we up the ante,” said O’Neill. “We surprise ourselves a lot in terms of the speed and the intensity and the type of movements we are able incorporate into our performances.”  

The follies bring together Davis and O’Neill’s two passions, medicine and dance. O’Neill, who minored in modern dance as an undergraduate student, has participated in the event a since his first year of medical school. Davis, a classically trained dancer, also spent four years cheering for the New Orleans Saints before starting medical school. Performing double duty, Davis also designs, sews, and puts together the costumes for the show. Before the show, Davis gets a little help from her fellow performers. “A group of us get together to put the finishing touches on the costumes by gluing on rhinestones and adding glitter,” she said.

What’s exciting for Davis and O’Neill is that they have been able to include students who are classically trained, but also those with no dance experience. Once the music is selected and the dance numbers are finalized, O’Neill and Davis will have the nearly 30 medical students participating in this year’s event, stretch, sweat, and repeat counts of eight until they have the moves memorized. “It’s a very iterative process,” said O’Neill. The group rehearses for two hours, three to four times per week, leading up to the final dress rehearsal.

For O’Neill and Davis the follies are one of the best opportunities in the medical school for the different classes to intermix. “The follies are a great way to socialize, have fun, and get some physical activity into our busy schedules,” said O’Neill.

Admission is free. The curtain goes up at 7 p.m. in Lisner Auditorium.

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