Student choreographs winning dance

Ken Eisinger

A University dance trio will perfect falls, rebounds and releases this week to prepare for its upcoming appearance in the dance equivalent of college basketball’s Final Four.
The maneuvers are elements of a dance titled “Urges,” one of four routines that will be performed in May at the American College Dance Festival Gala Performance in the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
This is the fourth consecutive year University dancers advanced to perform at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. However, members of the dance program say their advancement this year is more significant than in past years because an undergraduate student choreographed the winning dance.
Senior dance major Cynthia Gutierrez-Garner choreographed “Urges.”
“This is the first time that we’ve dared to go to a national competition and only take student work,” said Marge Maddux, head of the dance program in the Theatre Arts and Dance Department.
With the exception of this competition, only elite dance companies perform at the Kennedy Center, Gutierrez-Garner said. “As dancers, all we have is our bodies and the space we perform in,” she said. “The Kennedy Center’s legacy makes it a special space.”
In March, University dancers travelled to a dance festival in Columbus, Ohio, where they beat out more than 40 schools to advance to the national venue. Festival judges chose Gutierrez-Garner’s work over those choreographed by graduate students and professionals from schools with larger, better-equipped dance departments.
“I think it says a lot about our program,” said Linda Shapiro, a lecturer in the dance program. “We’re small, but we’re good.”
Gutierrez-Garner and fellow dance students Laura Selle and Kari Matter perform “Urges.” The five-minute dance juxtaposes graceful style called the release technique with athletic movement called bound flow.
“I wanted to explore these two extremes of tension and release,” Gutierrez-Garner said. The contrasting styles compelled her to call her work “Urges.”
She said the complexity of the dance requires the performers to connect to the music, the movement and each other.
This week’s practice will incorporate peer reviews to “clean” the dance. Professors and students will conduct meticulous critiques of the trio’s maneuvers.
“Maybe my hands are turned back and theirs are facing the front. It’s subtle,” Gutierrez-Garner said.
Gutierrez-Garner said she challenges herself not to allow praise to go to her head. “This doesn’t guarantee anything. It’s a chance to show my work in an amazing venue,” she said.