Dance students lend newly renovated Kilburn Theatre their voices

The BFA Dance program celebrates student choreography and a swanky new performance space in their latest showcase.

BFA student Nikki Ervice rehearses

Chelsea Gortmaker

BFA student Nikki Ervice rehearses “Earth Song” with other BFA dancers at the newly renovated Kilburn Theatre in the Rarig Center on Tuesday night. The piece, choreographed by BFA senior dancer Elander Rosser, is part of the BFA showcase performance “New Dance/New Space” that premieres Feb. 27.

Joe Kellen

Darrius Strong could only trust his headphones to deliver the best sonic treatment until tech rehearsals started for “New Dance/New Space.”

“The speakers in [the Kilburn Theatre] provide that rumbling quality,” the BFA dance junior said. “Music is the main inspiration for my choreography.”

The hip-hop choreographer’s piece, “Is There Only One Way,” is one of two student-choreographed works in this year’s BFA Dance spring showcase, “New Dance/New Space.”

The other three pieces are the work of professional choreographers. They include  Larry Keigwin’s “Runaway,” Joanna Rosenthal’s “Grey Noise” and Ananya Chatterjea’s “Neel, a blutopia for interrupted dreams.”

Out of the five pieces in the evening of dance, Strong’s is the only duet.

“I put movement out there to motivate the audience’s mind,” he said. “I wanted to establish the relationship between these two dancers as something intimate.”

Strong said the newly renovated Kilburn Theatre adds a nice touch to his goal of intimacy. The ex-arena theater got a $2 million facelift last semester with sprung floors, an LED light grid and movable seating to allow artists appropriate space for their work.

“Is There Only One Way,” intends to give audiences the sense that they’re witnessing something intensely personal. Strong combined his passion for hip-hop with modern and contemporary dance to create a series of movements that grow from smooth, legato body rolls to punchy contortions.

“When this piece was selected for the showcase, I was ecstatic,” Strong said. “This program has given me so many opportunities.”

BFA senior Elander Rosser’s “Earth Song” is the other student-choreographed piece. Set to the choral song of the same name by Frank Ticheli, Rosser’s work takes on a more ethereal tone.

“My high school choir sung [“Earth Song”] at Carnegie Hall, and it’s stuck with me ever since,” Rosser said.

While Rosser said that he’s “not good with genres,” he described his dance as an amalgam of the training he’s received. There are elements of modern, contemporary and ballet — not to mention moves inspired by his own physicality.

“This experience taught me a lot about how to manage time,” he said. “I really had to assert what I wanted and help everyone look the best they could.”

Tabitha Steger, a BFA sophomore and classmate of Rosser and Strong, said the process of creating “New Dance/New Space” has centered on discipline.

Steger isn’t dancing in either of the student works, but she’s been putting in the same work with 12 p.m. to 11 p.m. technical rehearsals.

“Sometimes it’s frustrating to deal with organizational stuff, but it’s going to be a beautiful show,” she said.

The sophomore is dancing in “Grey Noise” and “Runaway,” two pieces that have previously been performed around the country. While they have history, Steger said that she and other dancers are putting their own stamp on the choreography.

“It’s really challenging because some of the counts are crazy and demanding,” she said. “As we get comfortable, we can add our training to it and create characters.”

This is reflective of the showcase’s ultimate goal.

“This community of dancers has shown me that I have people to lean on and that want me to succeed,” Strong said. “It’s given me a voice.”


What: “New Dance/New Space”
When: 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Feb. 27 – Mar. 9
Where: Rarig Center, 330 S. 21st Ave., Minneapolis
Cost: $6-16