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Senior dance and theatre projects

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Mohammed Aljardat (‘19) and Madeline Skjervold (‘19) perform in Inga Aleckson’s (‘18) senior dance project titled “Cold Open Live.”

Mohammed Aljardat (‘19) and Madeline Skjervold (‘19) perform in Inga Aleckson’s (‘18) senior dance project titled “Cold Open Live.”

Emma Busch (‘20) | Chips

Emma Busch (‘20) | Chips

Mohammed Aljardat (‘19) and Madeline Skjervold (‘19) perform in Inga Aleckson’s (‘18) senior dance project titled “Cold Open Live.”

Emma Busch, Staff Writer

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In the span of a couple hours, two clowns climbed a mountain, one artist collaborated with his community, the Marx brothers dabbled in old Italian comedy, a lighting designer called attention to gender stereotyping, and dancers spun elegantly across the stage. While this may sound like the setup for a joke, in reality these events were the product of several senior projects at the Dance and Theatre Senior Showcase on April 7 in Storre Theatre.

Emma Brashear (‘18) began with a performance that grew out of her fascination with a class on clowning and improvisation taught by Assistant Professor of Theatre Robert Vrtis. 

“Clowns experience everything with either the most happiness you’ve ever felt or the most sadness you’ve ever felt,” Brashear said. “There’s no in between.” 

Brashear wanted to use the tools she learned in class to answer the question, “How would a clown climb down a mountain?”

Brashear and fellow performer Annika Peterson (‘19), dressed in an unusual assortment of clothing, spoke in gibberish to each other during the entire performance as they climbed a “mountain” — a stack of black boxes — with encouragement from the audience and Miley Cyrus’s “The Climb,” which Brashear plaed during the performance.

Tanner Huppert (‘18) followed with a presentation titled “Building Connections: Weaponized Masculinity, Voices, and Discarded.” Huppert displayed photographs of his three pieces, the first of which was a print of pink penises stamped in the shape of an assault weapon titled “Weaponized Masculinity.” Hupperts other pieces, “Discarded” and “Voices,” required assistance from those in the Luther community.

“I left two prompts out for the community that asked for clothing donations or to write down a time where you felt ignored because of your race, gender, sexuality, or other reasons,” Huppert said. “I wanted to get a collection [from as] many different voices from the community as possible.”

Following Huppert’s presentation, Danica Kafton (‘18) introduced her project ,“On the Grid: Dance Anatomy Curriculum Implementation,” in which she enlisted people with varying levels of dance experience to perform her choreography as well as  improvise.

“I used just about every textbook that I bought over these whole four years in making a large manuscript that has my whole brain,” Kafton said. “My whole theory of what it is like to teach dance and what it’s like to be a dancer, and it is separated out into levels for people with different levels of experience with dance.”

Erik Mueterthies (‘18) followed with his presentation, “The Lazzi of The Marx Brothers: An examination through a commedia dell’arte,” in which he explored the connections between the Marx brothers and commedia dell’arte, an old Italian theatre style. Mueterthies pointed out similar stock characters the brothers and the art form share by showing scenes from the 1935 Marx brothers film “A Night at the Opera.” Mueterthies was inspired to explore this topic further after recognizing the connection between the art form and the Marx brothers’ work.

A segment of Inga Aleckson’s (‘18) dance duets, titled “Cold Open Live,”  came next with a cast of dancers including Aleckson, Mohammed Aljardat (‘19), Maggie Schwarz, Emma Withers (‘18), Madeline Skjervold (‘19), Richard Weis, and Visiting Assistant Professor of Dance Andrea Vazquez-Aguirre. Throughout the performance, dancers either had freedom to do as they wanted or Aleckson spun around the stage, posing them individually before pushing them all over. At the end, Aleckson was lifted into the air as if she was flying before they all dropped slowly back down to the floor.

Barbara Stier (‘18) was next with her presentation “Gender Stereotyping and its Influence on Technical Theatre,” in which she explored the ways that women are underrepresented in positions on the technical side of theatre, such as set design and lighting design. In addition to researching, Steir reached out to women and non-binary individuals in the professional theatre world for their views on gender disparity in technical theatre. According to Stier, many women see this gender disparity and choose to leave the technical theatre world or avoid it altogether, but she sees it as an opportunity to be a role model for others.

“I see this, and I take it as a challenge,” Stier said. “I want to be one of those women that can show that yes, we can do this too, and encourage other women interested in this field as well.”

Emma Busch (‘20) | Chips
Annika Peterson (‘19) and Emma Brashear (‘18) portray clowns working together in Brashear’s senior theatre project “The Climb.”

Abby Suhr (‘18) closed the showcase with “Outside In,” a piece she choreographed for three separate pairs of dancers: Sabrina Benedict (‘21) and Madison Brauer (‘19), Kalie Debelak (‘21) and Danielle Koster (‘21), Avery Pazour (‘21) and Hope Shishilla (‘20). Each pair had similar choreography but with different lighting and music. The first pair represented strangers, the second friends, and the third lovers.   

“Whenever I saw a dance performance, I always formed an idea of what type of relationship it represented in my head,” Shur said. “So this led to a question that I had: what is about those specific performances, movements, or things that are happening on stage . . . that make me perceive a certain relationship?”

Attendee Susie Wold (‘20) appreciated the uniqueness of each performance and presentation.

“They were all very different, but I really liked the relationship between the different dances [in ‘Outside In’] and how little things were changed that made a huge difference in the performance,” Wold said. “Emma’s performance [in ‘The Climb’] was also really funny, and they did such a good job of engaging the audience.”

Brauer said that seeing all of the seniors’ projects was an emotional experience. 

“It makes me so emotional because you see these people doing and creating things they love and using people that they love to make that dream or vision come to life,” Brauer said. “It feels like a huge sharing of knowledge and creativity that I just think is so beautiful.”

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