Students dancing in Danstage 2015 practice stamina, control and focus to create a community of artistic spirits for a two-weekend dance experience.
Dancers in “The Sky, Boxed,” a piece choreographed by University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point professor of dance Joan Karlen, hope the audience takes notice of their whole-hearted progress during the event’s opening on April 10.
“Being able to share our experiences with people and showing what we have built together as a community is what is the most rewarding,” said senior Kellen Skidmore.
Senior Thomas Jacobson said the bonds made in rehearsal enhance the students’ collaboration.
“The rehearsal environment is so different,” Jacobson said. “That’s where you really get to know a person and how they work, think and move with others to collaborate. I’ve made some of my best friends in the rehearsal process.”
Danstage gives students of various experience levels the opportunity to creatively express themselves and create connections with their peers and professors during the rehearsal process.
“It’s super neat because growing closer with everybody allows you to make the dance yours,” said sophomore Sarah Rosenquist. “You’re able to dance with everybody together instead of it just being one person dancing and going out there as a single person with all these other beings.”
Rosenquist values the opportunity to learn from upper classmen in the dance program, while Faith Setzke, an understudy in “The Sky, Boxed,” has gained confidence in class through rehearsals.
“At first I was like ‘Oh my goodness, I have to remember all the choreography for all these female roles.’ I slowly progressed, and I got to learn all of it and take it to my classes, so it’s like ‘I can do this,’” Setzke said. “I know I can do this because I’ve been doing it in rehearsal, but I think it was in the first or second practice that Joan and Mads (Madelyn Mickelsen, senior) said ‘We’re a community,’ and I really took that to heart.”
Setzke became emotional talking about her experience. She was comforted by her cast members, seeming to prove the dancers are also a group of friends.
“All of the students care so much about what we’re doing, and that’s what makes it so beautiful,” Karlen said. “I’m so proud of all the dancers in our program who are working with a great deal of heart, emotion and dedication. It makes me want to run into work everyday, not run from work.”
Junior Robert Miles Sodstrom said the group’s accomplishments would not have been feasible without Karlen’s supportive method.
“The professors don’t just work on us as dancers, but they work on us as a whole person,” Sodstrom said. “The development, not just dance wise, but personal connections with others that you don’t really talk to as much, even growing in a sense that shapes you as a person has been the most rewarding.”
Junior Shane Donohue said he hopes audience members feel their own intrinsic reward when watching Danstage.
“I hope the audience feels accessible to dance,” Donohue said. “I think a lot of times audience members third-party view something, and then they get disconnected from it. From what we work on in the program and rehearsal, I hope they see how we’re trying to connect to a common human experience and that any audience member can get what they want from the dance. I hope they see that dance is universal.”
Michael Estanich, associate professor of dance, said his greatest reward has been watching his students’ work in the classroom translate onto the rehearsal process. Estanich has choreographed “A Place at the End of the World to Call Our Own.” Like Donohue, Estanich hopes the experience is relatable for audiences.
“If you let the material, let the experience settle inside of you, I bet you’re going to have some sort of emotional or sensorial experience,” Estanich said.
Danstage performances will be April 10-12 and April 15-18 in the Noel Fine Arts Center Studio Theatre. UWSP faculty Jeannie Hill and Scott Wirtz-Olsen, as well as renowned Chicago choreographer Autumn Eckman, have also come together to showcase their artistic works for the event.
Based on her students’ passion and progress, Karlen anticipates the audience will react warmly.
“We’re ready for their support,” Karlen said.
Arts & Entertainment Editor