Innovative Dance Production in its 29th Year


Natalie Tyler

Winona state’s first year student, Becca Braun, dancing in piece “I Give My World to You” at the Dancescape production in the Performing Arts Center building, the piece was choreographed by Janae Mann. The show ran from Feb 14-16.

McKenna Scherer, Editor-in-Chief

Winona State University’s department of theater and dance celebrated creative innovation with the 29th annual Dancescape production this past week.

Kicking off the three-night showcase on Thursday, Feb. 14 at 7:30 p.m. and ending on Saturday, Feb. 16, the production displayed a range of stylistic dance from modern and contemporary to jazz and experimental, with each original piece creating a journey for the audience to follow along with.

With a 400-seat house, Dancescape is open annually to those on campus and to the community.

With performances ranging from  solo dancers to large group pieces, Dancescape has been a work in progress since day one of the semester and features choreography by students, faculty and guest artists. With 31 students involved in the production this school year, the choreographers and dancers met weekly for four to five months in the Memorial 300 Dance Studio before moving up to the stage in the Performing Arts Center in the final weeks before the showcase to rehearse.

Production featured original lighting design by faculty member Peggy Sannerud, guest designer Samantha Heaver, and students Tyler Biggerstaff, Andy Glischinski, Cameron Lornston and Stephanie Trypuc, along with technical direction from Isaac Sawle and original costume design by Tracy Van Voorst.

Spearheading the event was artistic director and assistant professor of the theater and dance department Erin Drummond.

“Dancescape 2019 brims with evocative mystery, humor, intelligence and sick artistic risk. There’s nothing I love more than being part of the creative process,” said Drummond.

Drummond added that Dancescape gives students the chance test and improve their skills, as well as learning to work as a team to reach a common goal.

“Dancescape gives choreographers an opportunity to develop their work from conception to full-fleshed performance, collaborate with lighting and costume designers, and work with a production team,” Drummond said.

Peggy Sannerud, lighting supervisor for Dancescape and designer for Lisa Kusanagi’s piece “Roses Are Red…” gave further insight to the production process that occurs leading up to and during Dancescape.

“What I like most about [the production] is the opportunity to allow students to find their own personal lighting aesthetic as they experiment,” Sannerud said. “It always amazes and interests me that six people can take one repertory plot of lighting equipment and come up with 12 completely unique designs.”

Working on productions like this event are considered the ‘labs’ of theatre and offer students the hands-on experiences they need to best apply their skills and continue to learn.

While the design process for the event begins several months before the spring semester, the heavy-lifting work starts in November and  collaboration between designers and choreographers begins clicking into place. If the costume designs are done by this time, the whole production can preview the effect of that collaboration under the lighting production.

Once spring semester begins, the gear is set up in the span of a couple weeks and technical rehearsals begin alongside choreographer and dancer final tune-ups. The lighting and production team rehearses every single night a week prior to opening night.

Aside from being an annual production, Dancescape is also an official course at Winona State, consisting of auditions during the first weeks of classes during the fall semester and rehearsing and performing dance repertoire for the rest of the academic year. Rehearsals for Dancescape depend on which pieces students are involved in and students getting to pick and audition for any of the pieces, so they can choose what amount of time and creative commitment they’ll be getting into.

“I’m in two pieces and the best part has to be the connections made with other people,” psychology major Grace Wagner said. “It’s a great way to make friends and to create something together that you’ve worked hard for and can be proud of.”

All three days of performance were executed with ease and enjoyment from the performers and tech crew, many of whom had family and friends travel to campus to view the production. Knowing the amount of time, late nights and rehearsals going into Dancescape adds all the more to the experience of watching each piece.

“It’s such a welcoming community,” Jayde Grass, an elementary education major who appeared in two Dancescape pieces, said. “I have learned so many things about myself and the art of dance. It also keeps you in shape,” Grass said.

Dancescape members sophomore Wesley Holm, senior Jenna Grochow and director Erin Drummond will have pieces representing Winona State at the American College Dance Association regional festival this spring. Each year pieces are selected from the Winona State program to represent at ACDA. There, students attend dance workshops, classes, discussions, and concerts while well-known panelists in the field select dances to be performed for the final gala concert.

“The mix of professional guest artists, community members, staff and students is unique and I highly value the interactions and relationships that are formed as we work together,” Sannerud said. “I think the collaboration and company relationships are especially on view in this year’s Dancescape.”

Now that Dancescape has ended for the 2018-19 season, the students will continue to have class and discussion, although class hours are near complete with all the time put into Dancescape.

Further dance and production work for the remainder of the academic year will be focused toward Offbeat, a student-produced dance performance directed by seniors Hannah Ose and Grochow, with auditions already underway.

Natalie Tyler

Junior Katie Mullenbach is carried by fifth-year student Matt Erickson in their performance of “We Heard Them Speak These Paths in Air” during the 2019 production of Dancescape. This piece was choreographed by theatre and dance professor Erin Drummond and performed on the Vivian R. Fusillo Main Stage Theatre.
The dancers rehearsed for fifteen weeks before Dancescapes opened on February 14, fourteen of these being rehearsal weeks and the last being a final tech rehearsal.

Natalie Tyler

Left to right: Seniors Jenna Grochow, Hannah Ose and junior Tatum Reitter sit at the beginning of “ενοχλεί,” meaning “It Bothers You” when translated from Greek. It was choreographed by sophomore Nicolle Bond and performed on the Vivian R. Fusillo Main Stage.
It was one of twelve performances throughout the production, which lasted about two hours.
There were about 31 performers in total that were involved in the 2019 Dancescape production. Directed by Eric Drummond, Dancescape is a creative and contemporary production that allows dancers and choreographers freedom to be as innovative as they wish with their performances.