Courage and Creativity at the Student Dance Showcase

Creativity takes courage, and putting your ideas on stage for the world to see is a baring of the soul like no other. This weekend, students of the Hope College Dance Department present their choreography, some for the first time, in the biannual Student Dance Showcase. They are nervous, excited and hopeful, hopeful that their pieces touch the audience, or challenge the audience, or both.

Photo by Erik Alberg

Some students are choreographing for a grade, finished pieces serving as their culminating efforts for Composition class. Others simply love to create, and the Student Dance Showcase provides the perfect forum.

The creative process can be both exhilarating and exasperating, both terrifying and life-giving. Within the studio, a choreographer researches form and content, the ‘what,’ ‘why’ and ‘how’ of movement invention, employing choreographic tools and devices that turn ideas into art. For the spring Showcase, student choreographers begin their pieces in January, first working alone and then inviting their peers in the Dance Department and across campus into a busy weekly rehearsal process through April. Following spring break the choreographers present their mostly-finished pieces to Showcase advisers Professors Shauna Steele and Angela Yetzke. The advisers give feedback and offer creative solutions to each student’s choreographic roadblocks. Then comes the difficult decision-making.

It is up to Steele and Yetzke to determine which pieces will be presented formally at the Knickerbocker Theatre and which will be presented in the Dow 207 studio that converts to a small white-box theater. Student choreographers placed in the Knickerbocker have the unique opportunity to work with Erik Alberg, Technical Director for the Performing Arts, who creates individual lighting designs for each piece presented. Typically, the Knickerbocker pieces are further developed or warrant a type of technical support only possible in an actual theater, but not always. Some pieces are strategically chosen for the intimate setting of the Dow studio where nuance and detail are highlighted in exquisite ways.

The 21 pieces presented in this year’s spring Showcase were thoughtfully placed and range from ballet to contemporary to jazz to hip hop to dance theater. Three pieces are multidisciplinary in nature. Juniors Anna Smith and Andi Yost bring color to their collaborative movement creation, paint in hand, their bodies as canvas (Dow shows). Senior Chanel Harrison incorporates her original poetry into a duet with fellow senior Alex Pasker (Knick shows). International student Elizabeth Estrada Flores from the Universidad Autónoma de Querétaro in Querétaro, Mexico, layers dance and live music, collaborating with sophomore business and jazz studies major Michael J. Penida who accompanies her bluesy, playful jazz duet on saxophone (Knick shows).

Come support these brave young artists. Allow their courage and creativity to inspire your own. Please join us for the Spring Student Dance Showcase, this Friday, Dow 207, 6 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.; this Saturday, Knickerbocker Theatre, 6 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. All shows are free.

May I Have This Dance?

“Then I offer my waiting self to the One who’s never stopped believing in me, and the dance begins.” – Joyce Rupp

When most people think of “dance,” they usually think of A) people (typically young women) presenting athletic, skilled awesomeness to music on a stage, or B) raucous parties packed with bodies jumping joyfully to a DJ driven beat so loud it is felt.

But there’s another option out there, one with its foundation in the mists of time and refined in the ballrooms of the 19th century: English Country Dances and Contra dancing. Picture a dance scene from Jane Austen, or the Fezziwig dance in “A Christmas Carol” – that’s what I’m talking about. Believe it or not, these dances still happen in quiet communities across the United States.

Many years ago, jaded by the inflated, insecure egos of concert dance (see “A” above) and too weary for “B,” I’d essentially given up on dance, until I experienced “Contra dancing.” It was an unexpected evening of joy, invigorated by a sense of community. For a few hours, I danced without fear of judgement or expectation. I went home with a face weary from smiling and feet weary from moving, having re-discovered why I loved to dance. Friends, music, rhythm and pattern – the dances may feel weirdly “old-timey,” but that truth lends to them a nostalgic calm and ease that is surprisingly charming and fun.

Because of their historical significance, and for the last 34 years, English Country Dance/ Contra dance “Balles” have been incorporated in the Historical Social Dance class. This year, with my retirement, the last Balle offered under my purview happens this week.

THIS FRIDAY, YOU HAVE THE CHANCE TO TRY THESE DANCES AT 

THE SPRING BALLE

Friday March 29, 2019, Maas Auditorium, 7-10pm

OPEN TO THE HOPE COMMUNITY

FREE

Refreshments provided.

Glen Morningstar calling, Mark Schrock and friends providing live music

NO EXPERIENCE IS NECESSARY: All you need to bring is a willing heart and an open mind

DANCES ARE TAUGHT: Experienced dancers will help you, if you wish.

Costumes encouraged, but not required

For more information call: 616-395-7700

Elemental Dance 45

Wind. Water. Fire. Earth. Dance!

The elements get physical this March in Dance 45, the annual presentation of dance works choreographed and designed by Hope dance faculty and guest artists. This concert is always a highlight for the department as it culminates an intense rehearsal process for more than 50 student performers that participate each year. An additional 20 students make up the backstage crews, assisting with lighting, sound, costuming and stage management.

In the dance department, the concert itself, when speaking generally, is affectionately called Dance X, but the actual number is significant. This year it represents 45 years of the dance department going strong, educating, training and cultivating the creativity of young artists, all while maintaining the highest level of artistry for the stage.

Choreography is the dance department’s primary means of scholarship, so the works produced are the artistic equivalence of scholarly publication. Whether producing locally, nationally or internationally, each choreographer spends countless hours in research and rehearsal.

With a throughline response to the elements of wind, water, fire and earth, the subject matter of individual works ranges from lighthearted to contemplative, from carefree communal celebration to mourning, oppression and suffering.

In 2013, the dance department began the practice of hiring an esteemed, professional artist-educator to offer peer review for Dance X. Reviewing this year’s concert will be Paul Abrahamson, director of the Chicago Ballet Center. Abrahamson will evaluate choreography based not only on its compositional design and overall statement (use of space, dynamic range, creativity and integrity of the movement), but also on how the work itself compares to other works presented inside and outside of academia.

Right up until opening night of Dance 45 on Friday, March 1, choreographers and performers continue working. With a throughline response to the elements of wind, water, fire and earth, the subject matter of individual works ranges from lighthearted to contemplative, from carefree communal celebration to mourning, oppression and suffering. Each work falls within the styles of ballet, hip hop, jazz and contemporary, and each is as different as the choreographers creating them. This year’s choreographers include faculty members Nicole Flinn, Crystal Frazier, Linda Graham, Julie Powell and Angela Yetzke, along with guest artists Richard Rivera (NY) and Sharon Wong (FL).

And as always, Dance X (45) attenders should expect exciting surprises from concert designers Erik Alberg and Darlene Veenstra. (Hint: Better bring your umbrella if you sit in the front row!)

Finally, this year’s concert will be a special one, the last hurrah of beloved faculty member and former department chair Linda Graham who heads into retirement in May. Graham will present Chair Study, a crowd favorite first seen in 1989. Dancers will contemplate the element of wood through crazy stunts and thought-provoking humanity in signature Linda Graham style.

So, come celebrate with us. Let’s dance.

Tickets to Dance 45 can be purchased online, in person at the Hope College Ticket Office, or at the door on the evening of the performances. Adult tickets are $10, seniors $7, and children $5.

Perform, Teach, and Treat: The Different Careers of Hope Dancers

The Hope College dance department has long prided itself on the versatility of both its curricular programming as well as the careers of its alumni. Founded on the principle, “if you have a love of dance, we have a place for you,” dance  professor-emeritus Maxine DeBruyn founded and established a program that has — for the last 45 years — produced alumni who are changing the idea of what it means to make dance a part of one’s lifelong career.

Jennifer Muisenga ’12 Florey

Jennifer Muisenga ’12 Florey was a dance education major at Hope. During her senior year, she completed her student teaching in Chicago and went on to become the assistant director of Auroris Dance Company in the Chicago suburbs. During the summer of 2013, she accepted a teaching position at Kofa High School in Yuma, Arizona, directing the dance program. She is currently in her last semester at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro completing her thesis to receive her master of arts in dance education.

Asked about her time in the Hope College dance department Flory stated, “the Hope dance program provided me with a well-rounded education in order to provide my students with the best education. The professors pushed me outside my comfort zone and always saw the potential in me. I always felt supported in everything I did, and I continue to feel supported by them to this day.”

Tim Heck ’04

After graduating in 2004 from Hope College as a theater and dance major, Tim Heck continued his training with regional dance companies such as Eisenhower Dance Ensemble, Thodos Dance Chicago and Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago. From 2006-2013, Tim originated work and performed with Lucky Plush Productions, Blue Man Group, the circus punk marching band Mucca Pazza, Molly Shanahan/Mad Shak, 500 Clown, Redmoon Theater, and the small-top circus tent Le Tigre Tent.  He taught modern dance technique at Lou Conte Dance Studios and was a teaching artist with Hubbard Street Dance Chicago.  In 2013, Tim was hired by Sleep No More in New York City – a groundbreaking, immersive, dance, theater event created by the British-based company Punchdrunk. As of 2018, Tim is performing in Sleep No More in Shanghai, China, where he lives with his wife, Hope, who serves as the production’s resident director.

“In my experience at the Hope College dance department, I was able to learn by doing,” Heck says.  “While I was regularly getting demanding technical instruction that I needed as a fresh dancer, I was also able to practice the art regularly.  It very directly laid the groundwork for what I have continued doing since.”

Dr. Kathleen Davenport ’03

Kathleen L. Davenport ’03 majored in both dance and French at Hope on a pre-medicine track for medical school. Today, she is a fellowship-trained sports, performing arts and dance medicine physician. Following her medical school graduation and residency, Davenport then completed a spine and sports fellowship at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, NY, where she worked with physician leaders in dance medicine and published peer-reviewed articles on hip pain, and platelet rich plasma injections. Dr. Davenport currently works in South Florida and serves the local dance community as the Company Physician for Miami City Ballet, Board of Directors for Boca Ballet Theatre, and as affiliate professor at Florida Atlantic University Department of Theatre. She serves on the Board of Directors for the International Association for Dance Medicine and Science (IADMS) and serves on multiple committees for the Performing Arts Medicine Association (PAMA).

“Hope College helped prepare me for this dance medicine journey. I was introduced to IADMS and joined the organization while at Hope and now sit on the Board of Directors. I have spoken to dance medicine and science professionals around the world, and Hope remains the only institution to my knowledge to offer a unique degree in dance and pre-med. Thanks to Hope, I have been set up for success in all aspects of life, personally and professionally.”