Northern Michigan University Theatre & Dance will present its inaugural CO/LAB Company full-length performance, a vibrant dance showcase featuring a variety of styles and three pieces choreographed by NMU students. The schedule includes 7:30 p.m. performances Feb. 2-4 in Forest Roberts Theatre, and a 1 p.m. sensory-friendly Theatre for All matinee on Feb. 4.
Karina Johnson, CO/LAB Company artistic director and assistant professor, performed with professional ballet companies in Santa Fe, Salt Lake City, San Francisco and Sacramento.
“We want to make dance more a part of the community,” Johnson said. “We hope we can get students, community members and young dancers to come to this show and see the level of quality we have here with our growing dance program. Audiences can feel removed from dance because they can't do it or don't fully understand it. That's not what we're about. We're trying to bring dance to community and make it relatable, entertaining and fun.
“We have a well-rounded faculty to provide students with an opportunity to grow and learn, and also connections in the real world that can be super helpful in moving forward with their careers. In this department, we want students to be versatile and more marketable. They need to do all different styles and also choreograph because being in front of a studio is very different. They are learning leadership skills and how to direct people in a safe space where they can make mistakes and be with their friends and feel what it's like to be supported.”
Gianna Daprai, a dance and environmental science major from Lake Orion, Mich., will be one of 15 students performing in the show. She also choreographed a contemporary piece titled “A Different Kind of Love.”
“It's about relationships—how they affect us and how we affect others in our relationships,” Daprai said. “It's also very expressive. My goal was to create something that is relatable and has a story or idea behind it. I want to make people think and feel. I also wanted to give the individual dancers some freedom to express their own feelings and experiences. My hope is that the audience finds themselves in the piece as well.
“It's exciting to work with professors on different types of dance that I haven't previously done before. And this is my first time dancing for another student's choreographed work. It's all coming together. Everyone is working so hard; we're all in this together as a team.”
CO/LAB Company is intentionally modeled to create a dance company atmosphere for NMU's bachelor of science in dance, a program that started in fall 2022. An audition is required to join CO/LAB, but participation in the company is not required for graduation.