Dancescape 2023 Preview: a community of dancers


Elly Herrick

With help from Winona State University’s Department of Theatre & Dance, Dancescape 2023 returns for its 33 year. Dancescape provides students an opportunity to express themselves through movement and choreography. Over 40 dancers are casted into different pieces that will perform between Feb. 16-18.

Elly Herrick, Online Editor

Dance is a non-verbal language that anyone can speak; Dancescape 2023 is proof of that fact. Occurring annually since 1990, Dancescape is a collection of dance performances that features choreography by students and faculty. 

With help from Winona State University’s Department of Theatre & Dance, Dancescape 2023 welcomes a wide range of dancers from 64-year-old Colette Hyman to third-year student Rachel Knox double majoring in data science and statistics with a mathematics minor. Regardless of background or level of experience, the director of Dancescape Erin Drummond has created a welcoming environment for anyone to perform. 

“Joining Dancescape was something I would have never thought of doing, and I have met so many new friends throughout this community,” third-year student Olivia Hoffmann said. “It is extremely rewarding to show everyone the final product.”

Similar to Hoffmann, first-year student Cameron Domnick is getting more and more excited as opening night on Feb. 16 inches closer.

“I love the way I can express myself through dance,” Domnick said. “It is ever-changing, there is always something new to create and no one is ever done learning things about dance or themselves.”

The group of more than 40 dancers met once a week to practice and perfect their routines. 

“[Dance] makes me feel the most alive and the most in touch with myself. I love that it’s a unique way of connecting with others,” third-year student Jillian Pino said. “As a performer, I have a responsibility to give it all I got.”

The process of Dancescape begins in September with choreographers. The dance is then tweaked and adapted to the certain group of dancers in the piece.

“Sometimes when you don’t have the words to describe how you are feeling, movement is a therapeutic way of working through tough times,” choreographer, performer and second-year student Adeline Callaway said. “Hearing about Dancescape last year made me want to try dancing again because I’ve always enjoyed performing on stage and creating art through movement. I’m glad I’ve been given the opportunity to dance again.”

At the beginning of the process, Callaway recalled that most people did not know each other, but by the end of the process they had become friends. She also noted that the time they spent together was much more than practice.

“I have loved the process of creating a piece,” Callaway said. “My piece has a very large cast of 15 dancers, so I have spent a lot of time collaborating with my cast and getting feedback and ideas from them.”

Like most dancers in the program, fourth-year student Erin Thomas uses dance as a stress reliever and allows him to be his truest self.

“The relationships you develop in this process [are] priceless,” Thomas said. “I get to dance with and see my best friends almost every day.”

While it is normal for dances to have changed throughout the process, second-year student Ava Lawson had a complete shift in her vision for her piece. In August, Lawson had been sexually assaulted and wanted to create a piece that brought awareness to rape culture. 

“When you go through a traumatic experience, a lot of the time it feels better to acknowledge it and then never think about it again, but I’ve been reliving the experience for months and it’s been a struggle,” Lawson said. “Despite the struggle, though, I want to bring awareness to sexual violence. This isn’t a problem we can just look away from.”

Third-year student dancer Jillian Pino, stands with her arms out after being covered with a red dress by her fellow dancers on Feb 9.

While there are common themes in some pieces, every piece in Dancescape is entirely different from the other. With the use of lights and a video screen, it creates an experience like no other. The Vivian Fusillo Theatre’s stage floor is also covered with special mats in preparation for the dancers to give them an extra bounce.

After losing her cousin suddenly in 2021, second-year student Catherine McBride knew that her piece about her cousin would put her in a vulnerable spot.

“After performing in Dancescape last year and bonding with the community, that’s when I knew I wanted to choreograph a piece about my experience,”  McBride said. “It’s been a long and tiring process with feedback showings and rehearsals. All around, I am so grateful for how my cast and I have been able to portray my piece.”

Even though PSEO student Madison Peralta has been dancing since she could walk, she has learned a lot from this experience.

“Everyone has such high energy and you can tell everyone is so passionate here and that makes every rehearsal such a fulfilling use of time,” Peralta said. “It’s been an experience I have wanted for a long time.”

From getting ready for the show together and laughing backstage, these dancers have learned a lot about each other and about dance itself.

 “I have learned that it is okay to make mistakes, it doesn’t make you any less of a performer,” Peralta said. “Dancescape 2023 changed my entire view of the performing arts world.” 

With 13 years of experience, costumer Tracy Van Voorst is very familiar with the ins and outs of costume design.

“My favorite part is the finished production. I enjoy watching each show, especially with an audience,” Van Voorst said. “The designers, choreographers and technicians all put so much creative energy into each show so it’s important to see all the elements working together to really see the whole thing. That’s where the magic happens!”

Dancers like fourth-year student Ethan Pithan not only has a dance routine but also other responsibilities. Pithan moves props and uses the follow-spotlight on performers.

“It is such a great feeling of freedom when you get out of that zone of comfortability,” Pithan said. “The wonderful dance group with the dancing itself makes me feel so cared for and so free. I am so thankful I went out!”

By bringing in deep and complex themes, Dancescape has become much more than dance. To second-year student Sophie Sommers, the people in the dance department have become part of her family.

“This year has been quite hard after losing one of our own, Hannah Goman, last year,” Sommers said. “All of us that knew her are making sure we give it our all on stage, because your ability to dance can be taken away in an instant. Hannah is always with us and is the reason we all keep dancing.”

Get your tickets for Dancescape 2023 for Feb. 16-18 at