Dance Revolutions opens Thursday at the Rarig Center

The University Dance Theatre’s annual concert features four different visiting choreographers.

by Maddy Folstein

Thirty-three students, four works and one concert of contemporary dance: the University of Minnesota’s dance department will open its annual Dance Revolutions concert Thursday at the Rarig Center’s Whiting Proscenium Theatre.

The four choreographers involved with the concert were brought to the University as Cowles Visiting Artists, who work with dance students on contemporary dance, often through a global lens.

“I think as this dance program has grown, it’s reaching out to the ideas of not just Eurocentric modern dance… but exploring how modern dance and contemporary dance has been growing all over the world,” said Erin Thompson, a senior teaching specialist in the dance department and the director of Dance Revolutions.

Though Dance Revolutions is an annual concert, each staging is unique in its attention to different artists and focuses.

“It is an annual concert, and it traditionally has always been a repertory concert, meaning there’s different works by different artists,” said Nora Jenneman, the University’s dance program coordinator. “So, it’s not an evening-length show with one artistic vision, but it’s more of a showcase of different artists, meaning there were different processes [and] different artistries that went into creating those.”

For the student dancers involved, the ability to work with a variety of styles allows them to further develop their understandings of dance.

“You have some really extreme, intense, big-bodied movement and some more interesting moments where the audience gets to really think with the performers,” said Sofia Puterbaugh, a senior studying dance and human resources. “For Carl Flink’s piece [“An Unkindness of Ravens”], you’re in a community of dancers and people… There’s some moments where you’re throwing and catching each other.”

In Sidra Bell’s piece, “Artifact (Of),” however, students are focused more individually.

“She talks a lot about the individual maps we’re in, and those maps intersect sometimes and coexist with other maps, but we are in our own pathway and track,” said Kendall Edstrom, a junior studying dance and biology.

Along with the 33 dance students who will perform in Dance Revolutions, the performance uses the talents of undergraduate and graduate technical theater students.

“There are student designers involved [in] the lighting design and the costume design. There are some professionals involved… but there are both graduate and undergraduate students from theater that are involved in the process and backstage in crew,” Jenneman said.

Because these pieces were developed in residency with the visiting choreographers throughout the fall semester, Dance Revolutions is a culmination of months of work.

“The dancers begin with auditions the very first week of fall semester and then start pretty intensive rehearsals right away,” Thompson said. “There are what we call residencies with guest choreographers… and then we have brush up rehearsals where we’re cleaning and helping the intentionality of the pieces get a little more cohesive… It’s really amazing to watch these young artists grow over that whole period… as we watch them not just be proficient and excellent dancers, but watching their artistry come to life.”

Despite the long hours required by this type of process, the demands of these rehearsals truly allow dance students to stretch their talents and interests.

“We have rehearsals right now, and they go pretty late, like 10:30 p.m., and I’m getting home around 11,” said Alivia Fuhrman, a sophomore dance student. “I was thinking about how this is what I want to be doing. This is what gives me energy… It’s voices that we need to be sharing, and that’s just so exciting to me that I’m still happy about it at 11 pm.”

Like any form of performance art, dance exists best when viewed live, making a setting like Dance Revolutions ideal to see the work of young dancers and renowned choreographers come to life. 

“Often times, audience members will, in seeing modern or contemporary dance, get confused about what they’re seeing or what they’re supposed to know about what they’re seeing,” Thompson said. “I think that at different times and in different work, it can be like looking at a painting, reading poetry, seeing geometry or energy in space… It’s really just about bringing themselves during that particular hour or two hours… and letting it wash over them and into them, and whatever they experience is valid to them.” 

What: Dance Revolutions

When: December 7-9 at 7:30 p.m., Dec. 10 at 2 p.m.

Where: Rarig Center, 330 21st Ave S Ste 580, Minneapolis

Cost: $7 for students, $17 for public