April 11, 1997
Students Participate in Dance Theatre
A trip to Jamaica and North Carolina, a week of training with a professional dance artist, and hours of intense rehearsal and set-up led to the annual Spring Dance Concert at UW-River Falls.
Members of the Dance Theater began preparing for the three-day March concert since September. The concert's 12-pieces ranged in style from serious, abstract and modern pieces to humorous, physical pieces to traditional, cultural dance. "Each piece is its own entity," remarked UW-RF dance Professor Karla Zhe.
"We hoped to present a well-rounded performance that people can learn from." Zhe said. The concert was intended not only to be entertaining, but also to challenge the audience's thinking and offer insight into other cultures. One of Dance Theater's goals is to provide exposure to modern dance and enhance appreciation.
The concert included a special piece in which three UW-RF students, Kristen Baregi of Woodbury, Minn., Christina Giessinger, Northfield, Minn., and Christy Lallemont, of Catawba, Wis., performed with six students from the E. Gwynn Dance Company at North Carolina University A&T. They performed a Cuban-derived choreography piece resulting from an intensive field study of African/Cuban dance and history by Karla Zhe and Dr. Elanor Gwynn.
Members of the UW-RF Dance Theater and E. Gwynn Dance Company have engaged in a faculty and student exchange to jointly create the Cuban-derived choreography. "This exchange is a continued effort to promote a relationship between the two universities and to provide the students with an opportunity to work with individuals from diverse backgrounds," according to Zhe.
Both dance companies worked individually on the project since September and met three times to rehearse and coordinate their dancing styles. "They studied more of an African-based technique" which made it challenging to coordinate styles, commented Giessinger.
Kristen Baregi described working with the students from North Carolina, an historically Black university, as a "unique experience."
"It has been a real joy meeting new people from different backgrounds" said six-year Dance Theater member Lallemont. All three women agreed that the experience has enhanced their racial awareness and has been a great learning opportunity.
In March, Zhe and these three dancers headed on a week-long trip to Jamaica where they met with the North Carolina students to rehearse. The week also included an intensive study of Caribbean dance, culture and classes with two guest artists from Cuba at the National School of Dance in Kingston, Jamaica. Lallemont described the trip as "overwhelming" and an "eye opener."
She appreciated the trip most from an educational standpoint, especially with her future career in education. It provided an opportunity to "tap into another culture in a way I've never experienced before. I was able to get a lot of materials I can use in the classroom."
The Spring Dance Concert also featured a flowing, lyrical piece choreographed by guest artist Patrick Connolly of the Connolly Dance Company of Madison, Wis. During a seven-day residency that took place at UW-RF in November, eight Dance Theatre members were chosen through audition to perform the piece. The selected dancers worked long hours with Connolly that week learning the movement, rehearsing, and perfecting the demanding technique required.
Patrick and his wife Kristanne, also of the Connolly Dance Company, spent time with dance students discussing the intent of the choreography, character developments, and the reasons behind various movements.
One of Dance Theater's strengths is that members exhibit a wide range of abilities. The group is chosen through audition, but no prior experience in dance is required to join. Dance Theater selects its participants on the basis of interest and heart, choosing those who truly want to move and who are willing to work hard.
Members of Dance Theater are extremely dedicated, praised Zhe. By participating, they take on a huge time commitment. The students work all year in preparation for this concert and put in many hours of work; besides dancing, they do their own lights, costumes, and set up. In addition, six Dance Theater students of various levels of experience and knowledge have individually choreographed several of the concert's pieces.
Students in the Annual Dance Theatre concert are as follows:
Appleton: Kitty Clifford.
Catawba: Christy Lallemont.
Frederic: Mary Aguilar.
Hudson: Chris Marnell, Heather Jones, Pam Hudson.
Kewaunee: Ellen Reckelberg.
River Falls: Molly Jo Brenna, Lori Kuether, Renae Power, Stephanie Schotter.
Sauk City: Trish Schou.
Tomah: Bonni Cleveland.
Wisconsin Rapids: Valerie Guyant.
Apple Valley: Jennifer Hunstock.
Big Lake: Summerly Fretty.
Blaine: Heidi Breeggemann, Sara McGrath.
Byron: Nancy Connelly, Tonia Iverson.
Chaska: Ashley Bielke.
Inver Grove Heights: Kelly Pylkas.
Kimball: Sarah Klein.
La Crescent: Deanna Patterson.
Maple Grove: Lisa Carlson.
Montgomery: Julie VonBank.
Northfield: Christina Giessinger.
Roseville: Liz Martinson.
St. Louis Park: Eric Hedberg.
Stillwater: Kimberly Johnson.
St. Paul: Sara Monson, Leah Vestermark, Haley Lasche.
Vadnais Heights: Suong Ninh.
White Bear Lake: Bryce Fornes.
Woodbury: Kristen Baregi.