Dance takes center stage

Polk County Itemizer-Observer
By Emily Mentzer May 06, 2014


MONMOUTH — Students move around the stage during a rehearsal of Rendezvous, choreographed by Professor Deborah Jones.

“They’re always in search of a dance,” she said, as dancers couldn’t stand still, waiting for the light and sound crew to catch up.

The dance is one of 11 to be performed in this year’s annual Western Oregon University Spring Dance Concert, Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Rice Auditorium.

Dancers have spent eight hours a week rehearsing since January.

Six student choreographers have poured even more time into the concert, creating and preparing their own dance.

“I derive a lot from the music,” said junior Jenni Bowker, dance major and choreographer. “I use my dancers to help me come up with my movement. I have a very eclectic group of dancers.”

She said it doesn’t work well if she tries to ask her dancers to do something they aren’t capable of.

“It helps you find new movement in your own body, what your dancers are capable of doing,” Bowker said. “Finding a mix of your movement that you can put on your dancers plays to their strengths.”

Bowker got “a late start” in dancing at age 18, she said, so she doesn’t expect to dance professionally.

“But I feel like I have something to contribute to choreography,” she said.

Angel Stromberg, a senior majoring in dance and a choreographer, said she likes to tell a story through dance.

“The kind of dances I like to watch have stories,” she said. “I like the audience to connect with a character and follow it from beginning to end.”

Stromberg said her piece is very much her style.

“The way (the dancers) interpret my choreography, I like it so much better than what I saw in my own body,” she said.

The dance program at Western has helped Stromberg increase her confidence, she said.

“It helped me get to know myself on a different level,” she added. “Everyone can be a dancer. It’s not just about doing the movements correctly, it’s a part of you, an expression of yourself when you dance.”

Stromberg started dancing when she was 10, and has already accepted a job at a dance studio in her hometown of Tillamook post-graduation.

“I love sharing dance with anyone that I can, children and adults,” she said. “It’s important to me to share dance with everyone.”

To be a student choreographer in the annual spring concert, students must complete one year of composition dance, Jones said. A faculty member helps them polish the dance to be ready for the concert.

One of the tricky things about the show is being ready on time, Jones said.

“It’s a rigorous schedule for the choreographers and dancers,” she said. “There’s a timeline, tickets are sold.”

Jones said revisions in costumes, lighting and dance are being made until opening night. At the rehearsal on April 30, dancers struggled with pants that were too loose and wanting to fall off. A “pants party” was in order to make the necessary adjustments.

Those attending the concert should expect a variety of dance experiences.

“It’s a mixed bag,” Jones said. “It’s a festival of creativity.”

If You Go

What: Western Oregon University’s annual Spring Dance Concert.

When: Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 7:30 p.m.

Where: Rice Auditorium, WOU campus, 345 N. Monmouth Ave., Monmouth.

Admission: General, $12; seniors, $10; students, $7.

For more information: Rice Auditorium box office, 503-838-8462.

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