Spring Dance Concert To Inspire Movement

MONMOUTH — Jenni Bowker tried to stay true to herself as she choreographed, “Where the Wind Goes,” to be performed at Western Oregon University’s Spring Dance concert.

The annual concert opens Thursday at 7:30 p.m. and runs through Saturday at Rice Auditorium.

This is Bowker’s second time choreographing a piece for the show — something most WOU dance students don’t get a chance to do. Usually, the show is someone’s senior project, so they graduate after the show, said Deborah Jones, dance professor.

Bowker said last year she tried to use her dancers’ abilities and styles in her piece.

“I got a little bit lost in staying true to my own dance aesthetic as a whole,” she said. “This year, I was able to utilize my dancers while staying true to my own movement and choreographic style.”

This attitude has helped her use her dancers’ strengths while expanding their dance horizons, Bowker said.

“My dancers have taught me to listen and to also let go of control and trust them with my vision, because they are helping bring the piece to life,” she said. “In return, they trust me to help them look their best on stage.”

Being her second time at the dance concert has helped increase her confidence — helping her know what to expect along the way.

The concert is a culmination of a year’s worth of choreography courses, Jones said.

This year marks Jones’ final year mentoring dance students for the Spring Dance concert, as she will be retiring from Western in June.

“I’ve been teaching for 30 years, 23 years (at WOU), and just decided to do something different,” Jones said.

Her favorite thing about the concert is seeing the students’ work come to life.

“You never know what somebody is going to create,” she said. “It all comes from imagination, translates to form and movement. It can be a story; it can be abstract.”

Jones helps students bring their ideas to fruition.

“I help guide their process and give them their tools,” Jones said. “I see the pride that they have when they perform. It’s huge. That’s always been my focus. It’s very satisfying to watch them succeed.”

Naomi Olson was inspired for her piece by the quote: “Nothing haunts us like the things we don’t say.”

The piece she choreographed, “Left Unsaid,” is a modern-based dance, and is the first time Olson has created something to be performed onstage.

“I’m very nervous and excited all at once,” she said. “This is an amazing opportunity and I love being a part of it.”

Dance is a universal language, Olson said.

“We can all speak with our bodies when words fall short or fail us,” she said. “That is also what I love about choreographing; it gives you the freedom to express your thoughts without speaking.”

The Spring Dance concert will feature pieces by faculty and students, as well as one by guest choreographer Lauren Edson.

One piece will feature new technology incorporating selfies and texts collected from the audience.

“We’re all excited to see how the selfies turn out,” Jones said. “The pieces can’t really pull together and know what it’s going to do until you get in the theater.”

Be Inspired

What: Western Oregon University 2015 Spring Dance Concert.

Where: Rice Auditorium, WOU campus.

When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday.

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

For tickets or more information: 503-838-8463.

Polk County Itemizer-Observer
by Emily Mentzer