Gustavus Dance Students Choreograph Alongside the Pros Posted on March 10th, 2020 by

Katie Rhoten '21 performs a solo choreographed by Amber Lange '20 titled "The Cost of Breathing pt. II." Photo credit: Isabel Fajardo

This event has been cancelled.

In this year’s spring dance concert, Partnering with Gravity: The Gustavus Dance Company in Concert, the work of senior choreographers Amber Lange ’20 and Jack Fischer ’20 will be showcased alongside their professors and professional choreographers. The performance opens March 19 and runs through March 22 in the Rob and Judy Gardner Laboratory Theatre.

Co-directed by Michele Rusinko and Melissa Rolnick, Partnering with Gravity features nine pieces and includes 27 dancers from different majors across campus, including biology, psychology, management, and nursing. The student choreographers were selected based on works they choreographed for Choreographers’ Gallery earlier this fall.

Lange, a dance and management major, choreographed a solo piece titled “The Cost of Breathing, part II,” performed by Katie Rhoten ’21. Her piece explores emotional abuse in a family setting. Lange says the piece is abstract, which allows for more interpretation. “I feel like people can get a lot of different feelings from it, depending on how they view it and their personal experiences through life,” she says. 

Being selected to have her work shown in Partnering With Gravity was special for Lange: “It made me feel like I had created something that was worthwhile, just because the faculty gave me the opportunity to have it be done alongside their work,” she says. 

Each year, the department asks guest artists to choreograph works for students and teach an intensive course over January Interim. When selecting guest artists, Rusinko says she always looks at the big picture. “We always look at what’s the expertise in our faculty that teach here, and what’s missing that will serve [the students]?” she says. This year’s guest artists are Jeffery Peterson and Dan Stark. Peterson, an associate professor of dance at Muhlenberg College, works particularly with rhythm specificity and complex spatial arrangements, drawing on his experience as a color guard instructor. Stark, whose work has been recognized by the American College Dance Association, was chosen by the senior dance students to choreograph the senior piece. 

Faculty members Rolnick and Sarah Hauss will also perform in the concert this year. Rolnick will perform a solo choreographed by fellow faculty member Jill Patterson, and Sarah Hauss will perform a solo choreographed by Stark. “It’s just important, I think, for students to witness that dancing doesn’t end at age twenty-four or twenty-five, and that you can actually go on for generations,” Rolnick says.

This will be the first public dance concert held in the newly opened Rob and Judy Gardner Laboratory Theatre. The Lab Theatre adds a new element for the dance concert. “Both from the standpoint of the choreographers and the designers, to be actually able to work in a proscenium stage with side lighting is just exciting,” Rusinko says. 

Performances are March 19-21 at 8 p.m. and March 22 at 2 p.m. in the Rob and Judy Gardner Laboratory Theatre. Tickets are available at or by calling (507) 933-7590.


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