A day in ballet shoes

Junior BFA dance major Katie Kummerow shares her day-to-day student dance life with A&E as she prepares for the upcoming Spring Concert.

Katie Kummerow, center, runs through a class-choreographed combination on Thursday, Feb. 22 at Barbara Baker Dance Center on West Bank. The modern dance class learned by dancing from their teacher and with each other, a format typical to the University dance program.

Ellen Schmidt

Katie Kummerow, center, runs through a class-choreographed combination on Thursday, Feb. 22 at Barbara Baker Dance Center on West Bank. The modern dance class learned by dancing from their teacher and with each other, a format typical to the University dance program.

Kate Drakulic

Friday night marks the opening of the Theatre Arts & Dance Department’s Spring Dance Concert, and dance majors have been cramming studio hours and rehearsing day and night. A&E began to wonder: What really goes on in the dance building? Who are these dance students that walk among us?

To find out what the life of a dance student is really like, Junior BFA dance major Katie Kummerow shared her school experience. 

On Mondays, Kummerow wears jeans. 

“My dance teacher in high school always said, ‘If you feel good you’ll work well!'” Kummerow said.

Denim is a big deal when your typical class apparel is sweats and bare feet. Kummerow wakes up at 8:30 a.m. (8 a.m. on a good day), eats a quick breakfast and packs her bag. Her very-full backpack consists of a full agenda, tennis balls to roll out muscles, lunch, dinner if she’ll be dancing late and ballet shoes.

Kummerow’s Monday classes include “Genetics and Society” and “Excursions in Math.” Because of the rigid dance requirements that begin first semester freshman year, she’s still working to complete the liberal education requirements many of us have checked off our lists. Kummerow goes straight from her lib eds to the Barbara Barker Center, where she has “Composition 3.”

“This week we’ve been working on ‘Toolbox Week,’ where we pick some kind of topic or theme to focus on in dance, like a ripple or different timings and dynamics. We’ll play with something and choreograph something during that class time,” Kummerow said.  

Kummerow typically ends her Mondays with “Modern,” which is required four days a week. Throughout the week, she also takes “Choreographing Social Justice,” audits Ballet, works at Northrop as an usher and teaches tap dance at Southwest High School. But don’t worry! She occasionally finds time to socialize and sleep. 

“Students are stretching themselves physically and academically,” said Nora Jenneman, Title Coordinator and Director of Undergraduate Studies in the department. She’s also Katie’s adviser.

“Dancers have to show up every morning in the studio ready to work and be present. Keeping things in balance is important,” she said.

There are only 90 to 100 dance majors at a given time – that’s including BAs and BFAs. There are five tenured faculty members and 35 instructional staff members. 

“All of these folks are working dance professionals. Our students are really interacting with people that are active in the field of dance in some way, shape or form,” Jenneman said. 

Recently, Kummerow has been rehearsing for the Spring Concert with Professor Michel P. Kouakou, contemporary artist and artistic director of Daara Dance Company.

“You audition for the piece and [the choreographers] choose who they want. There’s usually a callback or you get cut … it’s pretty vigorous,” Kummerow said. 

She, along with four other students, were chosen by Kouakou to participate in his piece. 

“It’s a lot of effort. We’re still trying to get our adrenaline up to keep going, but it’s a lot about support, balance and trust between each other,” Kummerow said. 

There are 38 students in total who will perform and work behind the scenes throughout the concert. Two of the five pieces are choreographed by current students.

 “Our dance students are passionate about their art and its role in our society,” said Joanie Smith, professor and director of this year’s Spring Concert.

“This is a bold concert,” Smith said. “Come prepared to be knocked out.”