Dancing it forward

New school year brings changes to CSU dance department

Director of Dance, DeAndra Stone (right), & Assistant to the Director of Dance, Sarah Carey (left). Photo by Trinity Stevens

The Cleveland State University dance department had been under the direction of Lynn Deering for several years, becoming quite set in its ways. However, the 2021-2022 school year brings a change to that.

Former Assistant to the Director of Dance, DeAndra Stone, has now taken over as director of the program. Stone, having attended CSU herself and always having been active in its dance community, says that she can appreciate and relate to the student’s perspective.

First, having been been a dance minor and then the dance grad assistant, Stone states she is just on the other side of that process now. She believes that her nature of work has remained somewhat the same idea, just extended. The main outcome is always student success, not just in graduation or beyond, but daily. “Success is not defined, it is taking what you learn and applying that through life,” states Stone.

While not wanting to force change, Stone does has many goals for this coming year and the dance department so any change that occurs will happen organically. These goals are specifically regarding expanded community engagement and increased communication among the department. The communication aspect is one of top priority for Stone, and she hopes to have a monthly e-newsletter ready to go for dance students soon. With community engagement, Stone feels it is important for students specifically on the community track to be more active and immersed in community itself. She hopes to implement this in a few different ways.

First, Stone hopes to bring more into the studio, including guest artists and choreographers. CSU dancers have already been fortunate enough to have some of these experiences this semester. Beginning with Tammy Metz-Starr, who came in to set a solo work on the CSU Dance Company for their fall dance concert as early as the first two rehearsals of the semester. Starr has continued to engage with the dancers via Zoom auditions to determine casting and additional rehearsals. Other guest choreographers this semester include Annie Morgan and Alice Blumenfeld. Morgan is a member of GroundWorks Dance Theatre and is currently also a part-time instructor for the university teaching ballet this semester. Morgan has set a trio on members of the CSU company and will continue to rehearse with them leading up to the fall concert. Alice Blumenfeld has stepped in for a few modern classes teaching Simonson technique. She is also currently a part-time instructor at the university, teaching Flamenco. Her class will perform a group work for the fall concert as well.

Members of CSU Dance Company and guest choreographer Annie Morgan of GroundWorks DanceTheatre. Photo curtesy of DeAndra Stone

Returning this year as the guest artist in residence for CSU is Antonio Brown. Who, when not on tour with his own company in New York, is busy with CSU Dance Company in rehearsal. He is currently creating a group piece to be performed at the fall concert. This role of guest artist in residence for the spring semester will be filled by Teena Marie Custer.

CSU dance is also able to continue its partnerships with GroundWorks DanceTheater and DanceCleveland. GroundWorks DanceTheatre, the resident professional company at CSU, has returned to their regular studio space in the 13th Street Building this year. Their dancers will also teach a masterclass for CSU advanced modern dancers once a month. DanceCleveland will bring back their masterclasses and performances as well, beginning with A.I.M. in November.

As this shift back to in-person programming occurs it is important to note that COVID still leaves things in a state of unknown. Stone comments, “that you plan and have ideas, but we also must be prepared. We begin to rebuild those interactions gradually, moving slowly and steadily.”

Stone also notes how important this fall dance concert is for CSU dancers, “it is an opportunity for them; their first time performing live since pre-COVID, and we must do so carefully and have them ready to go.”

Most dance performance pieces for CSU Company have been assigned understudies or will be double cast as an added precaution.

Another goal of Stone’s is to eventually be able to have students go out into the community for dance outreach projects. She states, “that it is all about carrying out CSU’s commitment to engaged learning.”

A new director of dance is not the only position to get a new face this year. 2021 also brings us Holly Holsinger as the Theatre and Dance Department chair, and Sarah Carey as the assistant to the director of dance- who also steps in as rehearsal assistant for CSU Dance Company. Rachel Jablonski will continue her position as the dance program student worker, and Alyssa Kurkul will serve as the graduate assistant for the program. And Lynn Deering- now professor Emeritus- still stops by to teach an occasional class.

The fall dance concert will be held in CSU’s Blackbox theatre Nov. 12-13. In the spring semester CSU dancers will return to the Allen Theatre for their spring concert March 25-26.

For more information about the CSU dance program, company, or upcoming performances, please visit their webpage here.

Author: Trinity Stevens

Trinity Stevens is a current student at Cleveland State University majoring in Dance in Community, minoring in Theatre Studies, and pursuing a certificate in Arts Management.

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