Student Dance Project is Dec. 6-7 in Temple Building Lab Theatre

The Student Dance Project is Dec. 6-7 in Temple Building Lab Theatre.
The Student Dance Project is Dec. 6-7 in Temple Building Lab Theatre.

The 16th annual Student Dance Project, a program of original work by student choreographers in the Glenn Korff School of Music’s dance program, will have two performances on Dec. 6-7 in the Temple Building Lab Theatre on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus.

“Everyone should come see the Student Dance Project because the pieces this year are absolutely stunning,” said junior dance major Maren Schuttler of Bellevue, Nebraska. “There is such a variety of pieces from playful and absurd, to dark and connected, to flirtatious, to grounded, to everything in between. Everyone is sure to find a piece that they can relate to and enjoy. It’s also a great way to support the arts and support student artists, which I think is so important.

Performances are at 7:30 p.m. each night in the Lab Theatre, located on the third floor of the Temple Building at 12th and R streets. Tickets are for general seating and are available in advance at for $5 students and $7 general admission. Tickets will also be available at the door for $5 students and $10 general admission.

“The Student Dance Project is the culmination of the fall semester dance composition course,” said Associate Professor of Dance and Area Head for Dance Susan Ourada. “This year, we have 12 choreographers presenting work, ranging from sophomores to seniors. I feel like every year, it gets stronger, and I don’t think this year will be any different.”

It’s a chance for the students to showcase their choreography.

“It’s important because they have a chance to see their work fully produced,” Ourada said.

Schuttler’s piece is titled “we will gladly bear it.”

“I have six, beautiful dancers in my piece, who also helped me in creating and generating movement,” she said. “Sometimes I would give them a list of words and have them generate movement from the list, or I would give them my own choreography and have them change it and create a duet with it. Other times I would just give them my own choreography that I created based on solos they had done. It was really a fun process of creating movement in different ways.”

Schuttler said it’s important to have her work in the Student Dance Project.

“We have auditions at the beginning of the semester, get to choose our own cast, set up and run rehearsals, choose costumes, music, and work with a lighting designer,” she said. “It’s such a great experience to see how much work goes into creating a piece and seeing the transformation it can go through from the first rehearsal to seeing your work on stage fully complete. I think it is also very fulfilling to see others enjoy or relate to your art. Student Dance Project is very important to UNL Dance because it gives students an opportunity to get their work out there in front of a larger audience. In turn, our audience is also able to see what the up and coming UNL Dance students have to offer which can be fresh and exciting.”

Senior dance major Mai Rodriguez, who is from Norfolk and Omaha, Nebraska, said audiences should expect something new this year from the Student Dance Project.

“We have a lot of powerful pieces to be shown this semester, so the audience is really in for a treat,” she said. “I am very proud of all the choreographers, and all of the dancers are absolutely beautiful.”

Her piece is titled “Within the Lines.” It features two dancers dancing to a Pink Floyd song titled “On the Run.”

“I got inspiration from the current political and social climate,” Rodriguez said. “As a woman of color, I also drew inspiration from my own life. I also had a dream about a dance a few months ago, so I decided to bring some of that dream to life. As for the rest of the movement, I saw it as how women of color are always held to a certain expectation within the United States, especially immigrant women or daughters of immigrant women. I we are not meeting that expectation; we are not considered American.”

This fall, the dance program moved from its long-time home in Mabel Lee Hall to the new Johnny Carson Center for Emerging Media Arts at 13th and Q streets. That means a change of location for the Student Dance Project to the Lab Theatre.

“I feel like this is a new era to be in a completely separate building,” Ourada said. “It’s a much more formal space, in a way. Our old space was huge, but it was a gym. This will be a theatre. It’s going to be an interesting show because it’s not a proscenium theatre. It’s really a three-sided black box, so we’ve been talking to the students a lot about how you create work that acknowledges at least the fact that you’re not facing front. We’re excited about it.”

The dance program is collaborating with the Johnny Carson School of Theatre and Film for the performances. Lighting students from Associate Professor of Theatre Laurel Shoemaker’s class, as well a student from Production Manager Brad Buffum’s stage management class, will be working on the performance.

“We think of it as a strong collaboration,” Ourada said.

Audiences should expect variety in the work presented at Student Dance Project.

“A lot of times university choreographers make sort of pensive work,” Ourada said. “This year, there is a lot of variety. There’s some lightness in there. One of the modern dance traditions is that we don’t like to tell people what pieces are about because we want people to come up with their own interpretations. But I would suggest to audience members that if they liked a piece or two, they should go up to the choreographer and ask them what it was about.”

The faculty will select some of the pieces to be performed at the American College Dance Association (ACDA) conference.

“At the conference, they usually pick between 10 and 12 pieces to go into the gala,” Ourada said. “In the last three years, we’ve had a piece in the gala every year, which is just such an honor and such a statement about our students’ level of work.”

Last year, Schuttler’s piece, “we should pray for the women” was selected for the ACDA gala.

“I was not expecting it at all,” she said. “I was just so honored to even have my piece considered to go to ACDA, let alone make it into the gala. I’m just so grateful for that opportunity.”

Schuttler has been dancing for 16 years since she was four years old.

“I had never done modern until I got to college,” she said. “I’ve always loved dancing, and I’m also starting to have a growing love for choreographing. Last year was the first time I ever choreographed a modern dance, and I felt like I had no idea what I was doing, but then it turned out I must’ve had some idea since my piece made it all the way to the gala at the American College Dance Association. This year I’ve felt a lot more confident about choreographing, and I am just having a lot of fun playing with different movement techniques. It also helps when you have great dancers to work with, which I have had both years.”

Ourada said audiences will be impressed at the talent level of the dancers.

“What I really appreciate about them is their openness to learning what we offer here and their dedication to their artistry and the hard work it takes to improve as a dancer or any artist,” she said.

Ourada said the skills students learn in the choreography class will help them in any field.

“Choreographing a piece really teaches them so many good skills, even for the students who are never going to go on in dance because we have a Bachelor of Arts degree, and it’s not the expectation,” Ourada said. “Not to mention the creative part, but also time management, coping with several different personalities, scheduling, thinking on your feet, dealing with a vision and then not being able to actualize it, which happens to all of us as choreographers. It’s a skill set that will serve them, even if they become CEOs of Berkshire Hathaway.”

Moving to the Carson Center this semester has bolstered the energy of the dance program.

“I love it when I see my students hanging out in the lobby, doing their homework, sitting at tables, having their lunch. We’re not just in one room,” she said. “I see our students collaborating with the emerging media arts. We just did a project where the dance students picked locations in the building and did dances that the emerging media arts students filmed in some way. We’re excited to see the result of that in a couple of weeks so that we can post it on our social media.”

Schuttler said the move from Mabel Lee to the Carson Center has been nothing but positive.

“I love the new dance facilities at the Carson Center,” she said. “I love how the studios have big open windows with lots of natural light. I love the new location and how close it is to downtown and the other arts. There are also so many new opportunities for collaboration with the emerging media arts majors. Although we do have many fond memories of Mabel Lee, it is so nice being in a new space with renewed energy.”

Rodriguez loves the new space.

“It felt like dance majors were almost unknown when we were in our previous space,” she said. “Now, it feels like we are actually part of the community, and we’re seen. The space itself just makes me feel creative and just puts me in that freeing headspace. Physical spaces really do have an effect on people’s minds and bodies.”

Ourada is grateful that the university included them in the new space.

“We sometimes like to think of dance as an embodied media,” she said. “And so, to be in a new media place with embodied media artists is perfect. Our students are so excited to be here and learn more about how to be collaborators in emerging media. I love walking in the building and seeing people rehearsing.”

The dance program has been hosting First Friday events, which will resume in February.

“This has infused the students and the faculty with a sense of life and excitement and a feeling of being seen,” Ourada said. “We felt so hidden in Mabel Lee. I just feel like there’s so much more optimism and just an enhanced excitement about dance at UNL.”

Ourada has seen alumni attend the First Friday events and get excited about the new facilities.

“You can just see how proud they are to have danced here and to know that their program was so appreciated that the university gave us this beautiful new space,” Ourada said. “Some of them have tears in their eyes thinking about us going from one room to this. It’s like living in the studio and then getting a house. It’s amazing.”

Rodriguez said the Student Dance Project will be something special for people to see.

“We want people to keep thinking about it, keep talking about it because that’s what art is meant to do,” she said. “It is meant to create conversations and open creativity and imagination. The art created this semester is something different, something special and definitely something important.”