One of our favorite annual WAM Collective events is our exhibition inspired garment design showcase. Developed in collaboration with the College of Design, the yearly showcase features runway-ready garments created by undergraduate design students from non-traditional materials. Each year the course takes on a different theme, inspired by one of WAM’s featured exhibitions. This year the theme is identity, as inspired by WAM’s exhibition The Talking Cure by Melissa Stern and featured artwork by Rebecca Krinke What Needs to Be Said?
Each year, as part of the showcase, we invite student dancers to choreograph and present a work based on the same theme and resulting designs. This year junior Kelli Miles and Kristina Van Deusen will present their piece, Off-kilter. WAM Collective’s Design Showcase Chair, Meg Kelly reached out to Kelli and Kristina to hear more about what they have in store for Wednesday evening.
Meg Kelly: Tell me a bit about what you have choreographed for Imprints?
Kelli & Kristina: We were inspired by The Talking Cure’s light and dark (“funny and serious” and “how absurd the world seems sometimes”) moods that reflect the paradigm of each individual’s life story. Life’s balancing act is a never-ending play between “amusement and delight” and tenderness and toil, and we were interested in how our artistic minds could enable us to transform and transfer this story to be shared via two moving bodies. Melissa Stern’s work triggered us to investigate our own memories and stories and discover the deeper connections that we as humans have.
MK: What inspires you to dance?
KVD: Dance has always been something in my life that has simultaneously overwhelmed me with contentedness, while never failing to leave me wanting and craving more. The aspects of curiosity, inventiveness and the exhilaration I get from moving combined has always brought me so much joy. Through studying and investing so much of my time in dance, I am constantly inspired by the capabilities of my body as well as my colleagues. Just thinking of the purpose of dance throughout history drives me to continually investigate and explore the possibilities it can offer to individuals, communities and cultures. It has immense power in healing and holds no boundaries in this. I am constantly amazed how the silent language of dance can still speak so loudly to myself and others. I am in continual conversation with gravity, my mind, and others bodies, yet words are not necessary. This aspect is so beautiful to me, especially in times when formulating the right words is so difficult.
KM: I think the one the biggest things that inspires me to dance has always been a deep fascination with the sheer capabilities of bodies and the challenges or limitations we are able to overcome through intense practice and dedication. In this way too, I am intrigued by the fact that perfection does not exist because there can always be more growth. What this allows us to do, then, is find joy and beauty in the journey – in the effort. On another note, the ability dance has to bring people together and build a sense of community is a phenomenon that I find to be unparalleled by other aspects of my life. On many occasions, I have taken open dance classes or master classes in which I do not know anyone in the room but after just thirty minutes of moving together, watching each other, looking each other in the eyes and coming in contact with one another, these people no longer feel like strangers.
MK: How do your dance techniques/styles complement each other or contrast each other in your piece for the design showcase?
KM: My personal movement aesthetic draws heavily from my background in classical and contemporary ballet. Since coming to college, my interest has gravitated more towards modern and contemporary styles. Though Kristina has a different training background than I, I think that we complement each other in that are movement interests are similar now. To create this piece for the design showcase we worked collaboratively, while also bringing forth movement phrases that were constructed by us individually. When teaching our own phrases to each other, the “learner” would simultaneously make suggestions. This added cohesion to our piece. Throughout this process, we have also enjoyed the opportunity for contrast to be present whether it be in the way our bodies may look different while doing the same movement or how one Kristina’s strengths or favorite ways of moving may be a weakness of mine and vice versa.
KVD: Unlike Kelli, I grew up dancing at a dance studio not centered around ballet. Despite how our backgrounds have individually shaped us, we still have been able to find special connections in each of our unique movement styles. This contrasting element in our training has been a source of inspiration in the past, and now for this piece. Instead of seeing the discrepancies between our personal techniques as a hinderance, we use them as a starting point for generating new movement. For example, portions of the movement that will be used in the showcase will originate from a phrase I created that was then altered or manipulated by Kelli in a way that makes more sense to her body. As Kelli notes, this creativity then ties together movements that may have not fit cohesively before. While it is a great tool to use this sort of alteration in creating movement, we are not completely focused on this. We find it satisfying to let contrast live within our piece.
MK: How does dance contribute to the conversation of identity?
KVD: The beautiful thing about dance is that it can creates a safe space to express one’s true identity, or it can be accessed as a way to lose oneself in other identities. Either way, perception causes the audience to immediately draw messages, stories or images from the movement. Cultures have used dance as a form of storytelling, while on the other hand some individuals may use dance to investigate, formulate or convey a certain aspect of their identity. I see identity as evolving and fluid, just as dance to me is never fully learned.
KM: First and foremost, dance is a medium for expression, the expressions of the dancer and/or the choreographer. Dance simultaneously reveals something about the mover, as well as the message of the movement. As the dancer, we can either share our personal identity or embody the identity created by the choreographer. Either way, the audience is going to perceive an identity and see the message of the movement through that relationship.
To reserve your free student ticket for Imprints: A Student Design Showcase visit z.umn.edu/imprints
Kelli Miles is a junior at the University of Minnesota pursuing her BFA in Dance with a minor in Leadership. She began her training at Central Wisconsin School of Ballet and continued on to attend Interlochen Arts Academy, graduating with academic and artistic honors. She has spent summers training with Milwaukee Ballet, Joffrey Ballet, Black Label Movement and Alonzo King LINES Contemporary Ballet. Kelli has had the privilege of performing with professional companies, Shapiro & Smith Dance and the Martha Graham Dance Company in the U of M’s cast of Panorama. This coming school year, Kelli will be studying dance abroad in Israel, currently one of the most influential contemporary dance scenes in the world.
Kristina Van Deusen is a junior at the University of Minnesota receiving her BSB in Entrepreneurial Management and a BA in Dance. She began dancing at the age of 4 at a local studio and became passionate about pursuing dance as a career as a senior in high school. In the summer months, she has trained with Black Label Movement and with artists at Impulstanz while studying abroad in Vienna, Austria. While attending the University of Minnesota’s dance program, she has had the privilege of performing with professional companies and artists such as Gerald Casel and Brian Brooks. This April, she was granted the opportunity to dance with 14 other dance majors in Torrent alongside the Brian Brooks Moving Company at Northrop.
Meg Kelly is a senior studying Strategic Communication with minors in Spanish and Design. In her free time she can be found listening to 22, A Million on repeat and watching Modern Family reruns. She thinks Goldy is the cutest mascot in the Big 10 and has been known to get super nervous whenever Goldy is in sight because he is her biggest crush. Go Gophs!