Immersive Ballet Project tells murder mystery through dance

<p>Twelve Ball State students, and an understudy, costume designer, set designer and light designer all took part in the Immersive Learning Ballet Project this semester at Cornerstone Center for the Arts. The students created a murder mystery told all through dance with no dialogue and it will be featured on Nov. 18 at Cornerstone and Dec. 2 in Ball Gymnasium Room 213.&nbsp;<i style="background-color: initial;">Vladimir Stadnik // Photo Provided</i></p>

Twelve Ball State students, and an understudy, costume designer, set designer and light designer all took part in the Immersive Learning Ballet Project this semester at Cornerstone Center for the Arts. The students created a murder mystery told all through dance with no dialogue and it will be featured on Nov. 18 at Cornerstone and Dec. 2 in Ball Gymnasium Room 213. Vladimir Stadnik // Photo Provided

Cornerstone students will perform at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 18 followed by the murder mystery.  

The Ball Gym ballet performance will take place at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 2 in Ball Gymnasium Room 213. 

Though there is no dialogue, the students in the Immersive Learning Ballet Project this semester have created a murder mystery told entirely through dance. 

Twelve students, along with an understudy, costume designer, set designer and light designer, took part in the immersive project this semester. The students’ work will be featured Nov. 18 at Cornerstone Center for the Arts and Dec. 2 in Ball Gymnasium Room 213.

The murder mystery is told through two acts. Students in the class did all the choreography as well as set and costume design.

Sophomore dance and psychology major Alexandria Koontz said even though it is called a ballet, the term is used to describe a full-length production. There won’t be tutus — instead, there is modern dancing in costumes.

“As opposed to just being like a recital type thing ... [like] here’s a jazz dance, here’s a modern dance, it’s a full story. We have characters … we have created the entire story, picked our music and we have choreographed everything,” Koontz said. “We’re also playing the characters and all of that is from scratch. We split the show into scenes … every single one of us had to choreograph a scene.”

Koontz enjoyed the opportunity to portray a character and get feedback from others on the choreography she created for a duet and group dance.

“It’s just really interesting having other people’s perspectives in that and saying, ‘Alexandria, what if here instead of this, we did this or what if we replaced this moment here with something a little deeper, a little more intense?'” she said. “I love getting that feedback, I feel like it really makes me think outside the box more and it makes me grow as an artist a lot more.”

Rachael Wieczorek, a senior dance major, choreographed the first and last scenes as well as one in the middle. She also plays a cop in the mystery.

“Being a senior in the project, I kind of oversee all of the choreography. I’m running rehearsals, giving notes, editing things that are kinda rough and making sure everything flows together so it looks like one uniform piece,” Wieczorek said. “The vastness of choreographing for this immersive project is a lot more than what I normally do, but it’s really great because I’m expanding and learning how to piece different choreography together … it’s been really great expanding as an artist.”

Wieczorek entered college with no choreography experience, but learned through classes. She choreographed a 10-minute piece last year and is currently working on a second part of that piece. Her favorite part about the process is figuring out how to tell a story through movement.

“We’ve been talking a lot in dance history about how when you can’t put words, when you can’t formulate words for what you’re trying to say, dance is the perfect outlet and so when I don’t know how to say something, it’s so nice to just be like, ‘this is what I want you to say with the movement,'” Wieczorek said. “Being able to touch other people through movement, that’s my favorite part of choreographing.”

Vladimir Stadnik, an assistant professor of dance, had no idea what the students would create, but he was excited to found out.

“[The] ultimate goal was for the dance students to have experience, to create the ballet from A-Z,” Stadnik said. “They basically created a story. It was very exciting.”

The second part of the immersive project involved the students teaching 7- to 13-year-olds how to dance twice a week at Cornerstone. Rather than technicality, the students focused on teaching coordination and rhythm.

“I wanted originally my students to get teaching experience as well, because you’re not only choreographing in the future, but you must then teach it … [Cornerstone] had a big need to incorporate more [classes] for low-income students,” Stadnik said. “All together, it was 12 classes for non-dancers. They were bringing [the kids] from community success centers into Cornerstone.”

Koontz said several of the students she taught were excited, and she loved sharing that excitement with them.

While Koontz had teaching experience with young children before coming to Ball State, she had never choreographed at the college level before. 

“I love to dance, obviously it’s my major and getting to perform is just like my favorite thing in the whole wide world, but I was so scared to choreograph,” she said. “I’m proud of what I came up with … it’s not where it will be in two years when I leave here, but I feel pretty confident and I feel very content and happy with what I’ve created and that it goes with the story.”

As Koontz and her classmates put the finishing touches on their show, the final product is something all the students can feel proud of. 

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