Making Dances Course Adapts, Creates Despite Pandemic

The January Term course in the Department of Theatre and Dance combined technique, theory, and creation.
Posted on January 28th, 2021 by

Students in the Making Dances course rehearse in the Rob and Judy Gardner Laboratory Theatre.

by Ava Gross ’21

For Michele Rusinko and many other professors across the Gustavus Adolphus College campus, this January Term looks very different than the one that she had initially planned. 

Rusinko has spent the past five Januaries teaching a course titled “Bouncing Forward: Resiliency Skills for College and Beyond,” a course that has a very strong interpersonal component. However, as COVID cases continued to surge in the state  last fall, she felt that there was a strong possibility that all January term courses would need to be taught online, so she decided to switch directions. 

Marie Osuna ’21

“While our students were incredibly flexible through last spring and this fall, they were adamant they did not want to spend January Term taking technique classes or creating dances over Zoom,” Runsinko explained. This led her to propose the course “Making Dances,” a special topics course that she hoped would be more easily adaptable to distance or in-person learning. “If we were able to meet ‘in-person’ we would do traditional technique classes and work in the studio to create dances. If we needed to work remotely, we would lean more into reading and watching videos about making dances.”

Thankfully, in the end, the course was able to provide a mixture of both: students read and watched videos on different dance makers and they were also able to be in the studio creating dances as well. 

For senior Marie Osuna, Making Dances is more than just a dance techniques class. 

“It combines technique, strength and flexibility training, choreography and resilience.” Osuna has been dancing since she was a sophomore in high school. After trying out for her school’s dance team with no prior experience, Osuna fell in love with the activity. Soon after that, she joined a dance studio where she flourished in ballet. Osuna ended up auditioning for and winning the Gustavus Evelyn Anderson Theatre & Dance Scholarship as a high school senior. Her dance scholarship has played a big role in her involvement with the Gustavus Department of Theatre and Dance, where she has had the opportunity to take ballet, jazz, and modern dance classes. 

Professor Michele Rusinko

“While this class has been incredible for building my physical strength, it has also drawn out a mental strength in me as well. Performing on any level—whether it’s my final solo in front of the class or a group dance for the spring concert—takes a lot of confidence, and it can be easy to shrink back and live in one’s comfort zone,” Osuna stated. 

“Michele has really encouraged us to push ourselves to grow in whatever capacity that means for us as individuals. For me, that means breaking out of my usual dance ‘habits’ and instead challenging myself to create a dance that looks really different from the pieces I am used to creating or performing.”

Dance offers something different for each individual, but for Osuna, dance offers a way for her to express herself without ever having to say a word. “Sometimes, there are things you just can’t talk about. However, you can always turn on a song that speaks to you and just move your body in a way that feels right,” Osuna said. 

The Making Dances course is filled with a range of dancers with different abilities and to Osuna, that’s what makes the course so special. “There are dancers from the highest level classes that Gustavus has to offer, and those who have never taken a class before but thought this experience sounded fun. Each day, we come together for class and get to move and create together, but with our own flair. I love seeing beginner dancers working with those who have danced for years, and watching how they can create an inspiring piece of art together,” Osuna said.

Rusinko’s favorite part about this class is that it allows her to be in a community with students who also passionately love dance. “Many are like me—while they love being in the studio dancing, they also enjoy reading about, watching, discussing and analyzing dance.”

Visit the Department of Theatre and Dance website to learn more about academic offerings and upcoming events.


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