Pioneering dance majors create choreography showcase

Dancers perform in Laura Mansur's senior piece entitled Nostalgic Era on Oct. 28 in the Ball Gymnasium.
Dancers perform in Laura Mansur's senior piece entitled Nostalgic Era on Oct. 28 in the Ball Gymnasium.

They’ve shimmied their way through four years of practicums, dance history and ballet classes—the first in their program to do so. Now, they’re preparing for the annual Senior Choreography Seminar from Oct. 30 to Nov. 1.

Before 2012, Ball State’s dance major was a bachelor of arts. Now, it’s a bachelor of fine arts, and is also “more intense,” said Sarah Mangelsdorf, who has been assisting the students with the seminar.

The members of this class came into the program as freshmen the first year it was offered. Other students have transferred into the program and graduated with the degree, but these five are the first to see it through for all four years.

The weekend’s seminar has become a time for the dance seniors to reflect and celebrate their time as their program’s pioneers.

The seminar is a showcase that will feature the senior’s capstone dance piece—a show they’ve designed themselves—from the artistic concept and title to the choreography and execution.

The seminar has been a part of the dance curriculum since the early 1990s, but the students decided to take the unique aspects of their experience and apply it to the showcase.

They titled it “Bientôt. Foundation. Artistes.,” which is French for “So long. Founding. Artists.” It’s also a reference to “B.F.A”—the acronym for bachelor of fine arts.

The way the seniors are artistically engaging with the showcase is different this year as well. In the past, the seniors would only choreograph the piece, but this year, each will also perform individual solos.

“We aren’t just celebrating us as choreographers—we are also celebrating us as artists,” said senior Tyler Ring, who is also the executive producer for the show. “The show is showing our growth as artists and how far we’ve come from freshman year.”

Just like their choreographed pieces, seniors’ solos will reflect their own personal dance styles, ranging from modern and contemporary ballet to jazz and tap, in what senior Mollie Craun, also a publicity manager for the show, called an “eclectic blend.”

Ring will use structured improvisation to challenge himself as an artist. This technique involves having some pre-choreographed material, particularly in the first few seconds in order “find the groove.” For the most part, however, Ring will allow the music to affect him differently each time.

“However I feel is what comes out,” he said.

Ring has also enjoyed creating his choreographed piece.

“I love choreographing,” he said. “I love generating new movement, working with new dancers ... I especially love seeing how a movement I create can develop on other people. Everyone’s style is different, so I love telling them to do a phrase and then seeing them make it their own.”

The seniors said they hope the show will help people see the value in a performing art that’s different than a Broadway musical or shows like “So You Think You Can Dance.”

“What we do isn’t what you see on TV all the time,” said Craun. “Everyone perceives dance based on what they see on TV, but what we do is completely different from that in the sense that it’s much more personal.”

Senior Carolyn Meier, treasurer for the show, said dance is different from theatre because they devise their pieces from scratch, whereas a play or musical usually starts with a script, score and/or suggested choreography. Additionally, this type of dance is different from television dance shows.

“On TV, everything is always perfect, and you never see the slip-ups, you never see the hesitation. We want to represent dance as a very vulnerable art form,” she said. “In that regard, dance is very different from theatre ... not to say that theatre isn’t vulnerable, but when you’re on a stage performing a musical and doing that musical’s choreography, it seems so perfect. We want to expose how dance is just not that.”

This class was the last group Mangelsdorf, an emeritus professor helping students with the show, had in her own choreography classes here, and she said she’s delighted with how far the students have come as artists and as individuals.

“I am very proud of this group,” she said. “They’ve worked very hard, and they’re very inventive with experimenting and trying new things. People will be very pleased with the show.”

Mangelsdorf also had a hand in bringing the bachelor of fine arts program here, and said she was very pleased with the concept they selected to honor their unique experience as the program’s first class to see it through from beginning to end.

“It’s a wonderful idea and gives recognition to their time here at Ball State,” she said

A reception with food, drinks and an informal talkback session with the choreographers will follow the seminar’s opening performance on Oct. 30.


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