Swaying in solidarity: Point Park students dance for Las Vegas in wake of shooting

Approximately 115 dancers gathered in Market Square on Monday afternoon to demonstrate unity with the victims of the Oct. 1 Las Vegas mass shooting. (Photo courtesy of Sarah Morris)

As the clock in Market Square reached 12:30 p.m. Monday afternoon, about 115 young adults dressed in jeans and white T-shirts began flowing in around the perimeter of the square, moving their arms and hands in a series of intricate and repeated gestures.

“It’s a flash mob,” a man on a corner of the square yelled as group comprised largely of student dancers joining in a planned performance.

In the aftermath of the mass shooting that took place in Las Vegas last week, a number of students at Point Park University came together to create an artistic demonstration as a show of unity.

Angelica Luna, a senior dance major at Point Park, said a number of students who danced in the performance have connections to Vegas.

“There’re 12 Point Park University students in the dance program from Las Vegas, and after the tragedy that had happened, [these students] came in a little distraught and our dance community really came together and wanted to do something for us,” Luna said.

That something turned into the demonstration Downtown Monday. The group, after forming the circle, began a series of movements in sync that often involved all of them joining hands and moving around the square in a circle. Many in the crowd were unaware what was transpiring — there was no sound to the performance. No music, and no audible explanation.

“I think we just decided on doing something that was simple and beautiful,” Luna said. “Something that can honor the lives that were lost and the people that are still fighting for their lives.”

The focus of the piece was unity, and Eric Lobenberg, another senior at the university, felt that solidarity, even across the distance between Pittsburgh and Vegas.

“As the seniors in the dance department, we decided to do something with our art to showcase unity from 3,000 miles away for our home,” Lobenberg said. “I have some friends who are in the hospital right now from the shooting and just, the Vegas community is so connected back home that all of us in the department are from different areas of Vegas, but we’ve all been connected and know people from all over.”

And this show of unity was a large one — over a hundred students put the performance together in a matter of days, a difficult feat considering the dancers’ busy daily schedules.

“Honestly, it was just insane seeing the amount of people that were so willing … to do it and come forward and comfort those who were going through the tragedy,” Luna said. “It is so hard being away from home and something happening at home.”

The demonstration also served to connect the students from Vegas with their community back there, helped by efforts from another Point Park senior, Jennifer Romano.

“Today I was helping to livestream everything so it can be shared with our friends and families,” Romano said.

Romano wanted her friends and family in Las Vegas to see that other parts of the country are still grieving with them, and that she and the other dancers want to help in any way they can.

The dancers’ sense of unity is very significant to Lobenberg, who said he was grateful for all of the people — civilians, police officers and first responders — in Vegas who risked their own lives to save others and that the performance was as much for them as it was for the victims.

The crowd grew steadily to about a hundred people as the performance took place, and people passing through stopped to spectate. After the 10-minute demonstration came to a finish, the group involved gradually dispersed, and the crowd appeared to contemplate what they had just witnessed.

One spectator, Hayley Herina, a first-year at Point Park University, said that watching the performance was an inspiring moment of seeing her community come together.

“At the end … everyone had their arms up and were looking up at the sky, and then they all slowly dropped their arms down and backed away. That really gave me chills,” Herina said.  

Many people from the crowd stayed after the performance to talk to the dancers. Some students wearing paper signs indicating they were a part of the demonstration stood around the square, prepared to talk about what took place.

Many of the dance students who performed looked as though they could have been crying, and stopped to hug each other before they left the square and headed back to campus.

“It was a way for us to unite as not only dancers, but as people with our family and our friends and our community back home,” Lobenberg said.

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