Dance minor performs Gershwin

Abby Leaf

NMU’s new dance minor, cooperatively with the theatre department, will showcase its first senior capstone project with Gershwin’s “An American in Paris.”

Senior theater major Alycia Heckathorn has been dancing since she was five years old and teaches ballet at the Marquette Center for Dance.

For her capstone project, she has co-choreographed the story ballet with program director Jill Grundstrom and will be performing with her and eight students.

“I’m used to choreographing two-minute recital pieces for eight-year-olds,” Heckathorn said. “Choreographing at a higher level than I usually teach has been a lot fun, and a challenging and unique experience.”

Heckathorn will be the first student graduating in May with a dance minor, Grundstrom said.

There will be projections on stage to help the audience feel like they are in Paris, she said.

“The recital is not strictly a ballet,” Heckathorn said. “There is also jazz and a little contemporary. So it’s not boring.”

The dance minor at Northern Michigan University is in its second full year, and has had a lot of great feedback, Grundstrom said.

“We have sent a proposal to CUP [Committee for Undergraduate Programming] that we are hopeful will pass,” Grundstrom said. The proposal will place a greater focus on the three pillars of technical dance: ballet, jazz, and contemporary, she said.

The proposal will also include updated elective options that the dance faculty believes will be very useful to the NMU students as they venture into the post-collegiate world, Grundstrom said.

“We want students to know that the dance minor can accommodate many different levels and styles of dancers,” she said.

Grundstrom said they want students to have a practical use for their art.

“There will be a renewed recognition of composition, improvisation techniques, dance management and other dance-related job opportunities,” she said.

The dance minor program seeks to integrate all NMU has to offer by working with the music and theatre departments, and continuing to combine efforts in the School of Health and Human Performance, Grundstrom said.

“Jill Grundstrom has been working hard to make the curriculum similar to other schools that have a dance major or an established dance minor,” Heckathorn said.

Junior theater major and dance minor Jacob DeLong, who will dance alongside Heckathorn, said that he just started dancing three years ago.

“It is not as scary as you would think,” DeLong said. “The teachers are there to help you. Jill doesn’t have that ruler.”

Older students actually have more of a capacity to understand corrections, Heckathorn said.

“For students unsure about a minor in dance, I say go for it,” Heckathorn said. “There is no audition process, and students do not have to have a dance background.”

“Paris” will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 7 and Saturday, Feb. 8 in the Forest Roberts Theater. Admission is $5.