Student dancers look towards the future in ‘Beyond Steps’

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“Beyond Steps” aspires to promote diverse perspectives on womanhood. Speaking through dance, women will express beauty, strength, struggles and desires. The cast will also demonstrate how dance can touch, provoke and act as a catalyst for introspection. “Every little movement has a meaning all its own” – Otto Harbach. Ayanah “Tris” Dowdye is currently a junior biological neuroscience major with a dance minor.

She did not start pursuing dance until she was a first year student here at Union College. The piece that she has choreographed will reflect a mental illness, which is what she loves to study about in humans. To her, dance is an outlet that allows her to figure out her passion, on and off stage. “I wanted my choreographic work to be a representation of one of my many passions. As a neuroscience major, I always found the idea of mental illnesses interesting, and strive to figure out how we can help others that may be battling difficult internal and external situations. The one mental illness I focus on in my choreographic work is insomnia, which impacts women two times as often as men. Working with a group of four other student dancers is a huge commitment, and requires all of us to be focused and understanding of our individual abilities and limitations. However, it is also an absolute pleasure to work with my four dancers” J’Kela Smith ’17, Maddison Stemple-Piatt ’17, Brendan Coleman ’18 and Madison Altman ’ 20. The Winter Dance Concert is an incredible and inclusive environment that allows anyone to pursue dance, whether they are a classically trained dancer, or have never stepped into a studio before coming to Union, like myself.”

Maddison Stemple-Piatt is a senior with a major in Psychology and minors in Dance and Body Image.Maddison is one of the Dance Team captains and the Villella Laureate of 2015. This year, Maddison is excited to choreograph a piece to show how every experience shapes us into who we are. Dance is how the body communicates. “In my senior year I have been thinking about the end of my dance career and time at Union. For my dance project I have decided to create a piece depicting how every experience shapes us into who we are. The maturation of us as individuals is dependent on each moment that leaves a mark. In collaboration with the talented and hard-working young dancers, Shannon West ’19 and Danielle Pinney ’20, we have formed a piece with which I am proud to end my dance career.” Grace Kernohan is a senior with mathematics major and minors in dance and economics.

This year, Grace is thrilled to choreograph a piece that shows, “As women we rely on one another for support and look to each other for inspiration. The relationships we share strengthen us all.” Grace is one of the captains of the Union College Dance Team and the Villella Laureate 2016. Dance is home, wherever we are. My piece focuses on friendship, and how women rely on one another for support and inspiration through difficult times. Working with my friends, and choreographing movement for them has been a rewarding experience; it’s great seeing my friends dance about something so personal. I’m excited to see the piece fit into the show as whole. Even though it is a big time commitment, I can’t wait to see the work pay off in March!”

Lily Herout is a senior majoring in biology with a minor in dance. This is Lily’s fourth year performing in, and second year choreographing for the Winter Dance Concert. Her piece, “Skinny Love,” expresses the resilience that resides within all of us, waiting to give us the strength to be vulnerable and the power to accept what cannot be changed. For Lily, dance is a way to connect with one’s self, bringing the mind, body and spirit together as one. “My piece, “Skinny Love,” expresses resilience, the innate human ability to adapt to and overcome all of the obstacles and difficulties of life, which ultimately allow us to become stronger individuals. Whether it’s a personal struggle or the discord of our nation and world, practicing resilience is a universal necessity. This is the second year that I am choreographing in the winter dance concert, and although it is demanding, I am fortunate enough to work with talented, driven dancers who make this experience so enjoyable and rewarding. The overall concept of the show – highlighting the strength of women – speaks to the essence of the dance program itself, which is an environment of mostly women, empowering and supporting one another both in and out of the dance studio.”

Emily Alston is a sophomore at Union College where she studies biology and dance. Prior to Union, she has attended The Joffrey Ballet School in New York City and the Theodore Dance Academy in Sacramento. She hopes her choreography expresses the power and strength of articulate, intellectual women. Dance is breathing. “The intention of my piece is unity between strong and intelligent women and their refusal to be quiet. I want to showcase the passion and drive I feel personally in my life and have seen in other women that inspire me. Having a group of student dancers really brings this to life, as it is inspiring and frankly a joy to work with my peers. This year’s show speaks to me because I feel dance is an abstract form that needs no explanation to have an impact. The hard work the student and faculty are putting into this show will be a very unique experience that is sure to touch its audience.” Miryam Moutillet is a Senior Artist-in-Residence with the Department of Theatre and Dance at Union.

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