Alumni dancers return to campus to perform homecoming showcase Posted on September 22nd, 2017 by

"Last Rain" performers, back row: Mya (Follansbee) Shaftel '95, Colleen Brady Lindstrom '99; front row: Jennifer Gallus '97, Nickie Kromminga Hill '98, Betsy Maloney Leaf '97 Photo credit: Sue Navarro Photography

Walking down the hallway toward Kresge Dance Studio on a cloudy evening, laughter emanates from the room. A metal chair squeaks, and more voices chime into the conversation. The five women gathered in the space are alumnae dancers who graduated 20 years ago, and they are working to choreograph a piece that premieres on Saturday as part of “Encore: An Alumni Dance Celebration” at 2:30 p.m. in Bjorling Recital Hall.

These women are veterinarians, teachers, and talk show radio hosts. Since leaving Gustavus, many of them have not danced at all, but their friendship has only grown. They have stayed connected over the years and supported each other through difficult times. That is why this piece in particular encompasses one of the more challenging parts of life: loss.

Michele Rusinko, professor in theatre and dance, says she came up with the concept of this piece based on the idea of “malkosh” in Israel, meaning “last rain.” There are clear divisions in Israel between rainy and dry periods, but it is impossible to know which rain is the “last” of the season until it’s over and the sun returns. Rusinko says many losses in life are like this, and after losing her mother and finding out that one of the dancers had also lost hers, it seemed like this group of women were the best group for the dance. “There’s a comfort with people you’ve known for a long time, a history,” Rusinko explains.

The dancers say that being back on campus is special because they started to figure out who they were at Gustavus, even though this is an ever-evolving process. “When we were all here, Kresge Dance Studio was home for us. We called it the ‘womb’ because we spent so much time here and it was warm and welcoming. Now we’ve gone away for 20 years, but to come back it feels like being home again — it smells the same,” Colleen Brady Lindstrom ’99 laughs. Lindstrom is now a radio host in the Twin Cities. This will be the first time that her husband and daughter will see her dance, and she is not the only one.

While the space still seems the same, the wisdom that has developed since their days on campus is evident. “Things are more complicated now. There are pets, jobs, kids, husbands. It’s not like it was when we were in college,” says Betsy Maloney Leaf ’97. Leaf now teaches arts education at the University of Minnesota and also works at Perpich Center for the Arts. “But we are a group of friends and there are things we only share with this group of friends. There’s a lot of trust here,” she says.

Nickie Kromminga Hill ’98 is now a theatre and dance teacher at Anoka High School. She says that this is truly a homecoming. “It feels good to be home again. Home is so many places now, but it’s like when your parent cooks your favorite meal, that’s what it feels like to be back here,” she says.

The women’s work will be featured as part of “Encore: An Alumni Dance Celebration” on Saturday. They will be joined by other alumni dancers from across the country including Jo (Gjertson) Frederiksen ’81, who just returned from dancing in Edinburgh, Scotland, and runs the School for Education in Dance and Other Related Arts in New York City. The performance is free and the public is welcome to attend.


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