Annual THAD event invites guest choreographers

Wednesday, September 28th, 2016
Guest choreographer Daniel Stark shares tips and tricks on how to perfect on stage movements during a dance seminar in Memorial 300 on Thursday evening. (Photo by Zach Bailey)

Guest choreographer Daniel Stark shares tips and tricks on how to perfect on stage movements during a dance seminar in Memorial 300 on Thursday evening. (Photo by Zach Bailey)

Jose Herrera / Winonan

Dancescape is a big part of Winona State University’s history. What makes Dancescape interesting is its alternate themes from year to year, with nothing borrowed from past Dancescapes. This fall, Winona State will be featuring guest dancers and choreographers Erin Drummond and Dan Stark, both of which achieved Masters of Fine Arts (MFA).

Dancescape is an annual repertory concert at Winona State in the department of theater and dance. The dances are performed by students, faculty and guest artists.

Dancescape began in 1990, making this year 27 at Winona State. Dancers emailed Gretchen Cohenour, a professor at Winona State, in April stating if they were interested in choreographing.

“It was a call for proposals,” Cohenour said.

Students interested in choreographing submitted a proposal form, which held their spot in the process. Cohenour and a few other staff members got together in a meeting during the first week of classes and began auditions Aug. 30-31.

More than 50 Winona State students and committee members auditioned.

Winona State currently has several students who are choreographers that created dances for this upcoming Dancescape. Cohenour stated she also is creating a piece of choreography.

Choreography comes in many different styles and different forms of dance, Cohenour said. This year, Cohenour is working on a quartet for four dancers. She is exploring sculpture form, cause and effect and balancing on the tipping point.

Cohenour has been a faculty member since Dancescape’s beginning.

“It is just a wonderful showcase for cultivating and presenting choreography, dance is an art form in the university and the Winona community,” Cohenour said.

Dancescape will have three shows Feb. 16-18. Every year is different with a different set of dancers and dances. Rehearsal starts in the fall semester, with one or two weekly rehearsals, each lasting one to two hours for each practiced dance. When the dancers get into the second semester, they start the tech rehearsal. During this time performers are in the theater almost every night a week before the show begins.

Dan Stark is one of two guest choreographers for Dancescape 2017. Stark was a dancer for years and has worked with many choreographers.

This position is made possible through a generous gift to the dance program from Bill Koutsky through the Winona State Foundation.

Stark was a dancer in college who majored in psychology. He mentioned how as an actor, someone saw him perform a musical number and told him he had talent in dance and should take a few dance classes.

Stark took that advice and started taking classes to improve his dancing. Stark believes people should treat their body as if they participate in football or any other sport. The body needs to be conditioned the same.

After obtaining a psychology major, he was offered a dance job with The Philidelphia Dance Theatre. At the time it was one of the oldest repertory dance companies working in modern dance.

Due to its proximity to New York, they would often bring in New York choreographers to work. This led Stark to another job in the Twin Cities with Beth Corning.

Stark was born with a knee problem, and dancing furthered his injury, leading to a knee surjury. Stark was told he would never be able to dance the same way. To avoid injuring them further, he went to grad school for dance, where he started choreographing.

Erin Drummond, another guest dancer, showed off her style of dance and choreography. Drummond started as a child after her childhood friend influenced her to try dancing with her.

Currently, Drummond is focusing on working with her own choreography and wants to develop her own movement practice.

“I’ve been dancing for 25 years and it has been a journey,” Drummond said.

Drummond believes that all movement can inform dancing such as watching a cloud shift or watching birds fly. There are many ways to perform a dance practice, and according to Drummond, every person is different.

-By Jose Herrera

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