Students take center stage as dancers, choreographers for New Dance 2016

New Dance 2016 is bringing together many students and faculty at UAA for a weekend that promises to be full of different arrangements, many of which are being choreographed by UAA students.

The production consists of ten different pieces and will showcase the culminating efforts of sixty dancers and crew members. Most of the pieces are originals and are being choreographed by staff in the dance department or by several of the students themselves.

The annual spring event kicks off this week with shows on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 8 p.m. and a final show on Sunday at 6 p.m. All the performances can be seen in the Mainstage Theatre on the second floor of the Fine Arts Building.

The student choreographers are invited by professor Brian Jeffery from the Department of Theatre and Dance. Each of the five students who are contributing pieces to New Dance 2016 received their invitation to participate over winter break. This is unique as many schools may only allow seniors of the dance department to choreograph their own pieces. Taylor Hicks, a senior in the theatre department with an emphasis on dance, praises the department for “allowing lots of hands on experience you may not do at another school.”

The five student choreographed pieces were developed by Katie O’Loughlin, Racin Engstrom, Carmel Young, Crystal Dosser, and Taylor Hicks.

Katie O’Loughlin who is a junior in the technical theatre program with a minor in dance, choreographed a solo piece that she will be performing as one of the ten dances that those in attendance to New Dance 2016 will see. O’Loughlin describes her piece, entitled “Another Minute” as “being really personal for me.” A criteria that she said is important to the choreographing process for her. “Another Minute” is the third piece that O’Loughlin has choreographed for the department and she said that it is about “growing, waiting, and strength…it is the idea of trying.”

“Arrive,” a piece that is being choreographed by Racin Engstrom, a dance minor whose major is anthropology, is described by Engstrom as being “about living in the present as it depicts dynamic changes and finding clarity in them.” Engstrom will be dancing her piece as part of a quartet. This is also Engstrom’s third time being asked to choreograph a piece.

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A piece about love by Carmel Young, entitled “Sentimental,” is described as a “beautiful” piece by Alyssa Willett, a graduate student in the Anthropology Department who was invited by Young to be one of the dancers in “Sentimental.”

Crystal Dosser, a senior, is contributing her fourth piece she has created for the dance program entitled “Astral,” and is described as having a “celestial feel.” That feeling comes in part thanks to the unique way that Dosser is choosing to light her stage, as each of the dancers will be holding a light in each hand that they will turn on and off as part of the choreography. In talking about the process she underwent to arrive at her idea Dosser said, “I had an idea and let it morph, until it became something more beautiful and meditative.”

Taylor Hicks is providing a piece she choreographed entitled “Vibes” which shes said “feels like you are at a music festival.” The number is one of New Dance 2016’s more upbeat and relatable dances that is suppose to invoke the energy of music and summer. The dance is “very energetic, and very musical,” Hicks said.

In addition to the five pieces being choreographed by UAA students, five other pieces will be performed. Four will be choreographed by different faculty members of the dance program, as well as a piece by Katherine Kramer, a recent visitor to the UAA dance program. Katherine Kramer decided to revisit a piece that she originally created 30 years ago called “Blue Blue Sky.” The piece was created in the wake of a personal loss in Kramer’s life, and the explosion of the Space Craft Challenger.

Engstrom describes every piece as “being very strong,” and O’Loughlin said the “pieces contrast each other.” The dances range from solo pieces to modern dance to hip hop and will showcase a lot of talented dancers.

The dance program was praised by each of the students for having a very supportive faculty. O’Loughlin said about the dance program, “we are here because we are actually in love with it,” Dosser said. “The program helps create avenues,” when describing ways that her experience in the program has helped her network and create relationships with dancers in other parts of the country.

“UAA dance program is the most accepting of new people of all the schools I’ve danced for.” Alyssa Willet said, “They are good at what they do and I want people to see it.” Willet’s sentiments about the program are shared by each to the choreographers that were invited to participate in the years New Dance performance.

Tickets for this event are currently available at

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Crystal Dosser and three other dancers rehearse one of the pieces that can be seen this week as part of New Dance 2016 Photo credit: O’Hara K Shipe
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Katie O’Loughlin will perform her solo piece during New Dance 2016 Photo credit: O’Hara K Shipe
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New Dance 2016 will offer audience members many different dance pieces, like the one the dancers are practicing in this photo. Photo credit: O’Hara K Shipe