Northern Michigan University's Department of Theatre and Dance will present a CO/LAB COLLECTIVE dance showcase at 8 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 30, and Saturday, Oct. 2, at Forest Roberts Theatre. A sensory-friendly Theatre For All performance will be held at 10 a.m. Friday, Oct. 1.
Spanning various dance genres, students and faculty will showcase the collaborative process between dancers and choreographers, with the inclusivity of how music, art and poetry can influence movement. Four of the five pieces are student choreographed, including a piece by the NMU dance team.
“From a professional standpoint, one of our programmatic goals is to have students graduate with artistic experience,” said Jill Grundstrom, assistant professor and co-director of NMU Theatre and Dance. “Giving these students a choreographic voice and a way to express time and place for their generation is huge.”
“Not a lot of dance programs let students do that,” added Karina Johnson, a new dance instructor at NMU. “It allows us to really get a sense of what students are learning about in their classes.”
Northern Michigan University dance major Logan Stoner of Kalamazoo, Mich., is having her choreographic debut in the production. “To Have a Body” is her awareness piece about body positivity in the dance world. Stoner said that she drew from personal experience for the piece.
“I have a gymnast's body,” said Stoner. “I tried to pursue ballet and had some negative experiences when I did. A lot of us dancers have body dysmorphia, eating disorders and other body image and mental health conditions. I am trying to make the audience aware of this.”
A component of the CO/LAB COLLECTIVE is that each choreographer collaborates with another person or artist for the performance, which is reflected in the event title. Stoner collaborated with Jessica Hudson, an NMU graduate teaching assistant in the English department, who wrote a poem about three of the dancers' experiences. Stoner also worked with William Squires, an NMU theatre technology and design major, who added elements of sound to the poem.
“My piece has a lot of super flowy contemporary movements with some sharp motions as well,” said Stoner. “I use a mirror that dancers dance alongside throughout the piece to help send my message to the audience. Having this first choreography experience has made me gain a love for choreographing.”
Johnson choreographed a contemporary/modern piece titled “Je suis un cactus” for the performance. She graduated from the University of Utah in 2010 with a bachelor's degree in ballet, and afterwards spent a year as an apprentice at Smuin Ballet in San Francisco before moving to join the Sacramento Ballet. After eight years of dancing professionally, and five more of helping run a project-based company, she decided it was time to pass on her love and knowledge of dance to the next generation, bringing her to NMU.
“This is my first time choreographing for college-level students,” said Johnson. “The six dancers in my piece are very open to trying new things and excited to learn. My choreography is mostly inspired by the students. Their natural movement quality is at the forefront of my choreography. A lot of the movement in my piece is based in classical ballet, but with a twist.”
The show entails a wide variety of choreographic styles, from a piece with a burlesque feel that utilizes chairs to one that embraces rock and roll with a live band onstage.
Tickets are $17 for the general public; $12 for NMU faculty and staff, seniors and military; $10 for students; and $5 for NMU students. They can be purchased online at tickets.nmu.edu, by phone at 906-227-1032, or in person at any NMU ticket outlet.
An opening night party will be held after the first performance. It will feature complimentary food and beverages, a photo booth and a meet and greet with the cast and creative team. The opening night party is included with a ticket purchased for Sept. 30 and will follow the show in the Forest Roberts Theatre lobby.