Gustavus Dance Company in concert

Katie DoolittleStaff Writer

The Gustavus Dance Company will be performing their concert titled “that single fleeting moment.” Performances will take place in the Rob and Judy Gardner Laboratory Theatre on April 13 through April 15 at 8:00 p.m. and on April 16th at 2:00 p.m. 

The program is honoring the work and legacy of former dance professor, Michele Rusinko. “We are celebrating my colleague Michele Rusinko’s 34 years as a dedicated faculty, director of the dance program, serving often as chair of the Department of Theatre and Dance during her tenure at the College, and strategic visionary in developing the dance program,”  Melissa Rolnick, the concert director said. 

Michele Rusinko, while currently retired, maintains a deep admiration in the eyes of her former students. “For years, she has taught me about the learning that exists through listening to and connecting with others, that our stories hold significance and meaning, and that there are beautiful moments in each day. She has helped me to grow as a dancer and a performer, reminding me of the power that dance can hold and the beauty of this art form,” Senior Abigail Doran said. 

As both a dancer and student, Doran is greatly impacted by Rusinko’s kindness. “Through all the worries and stressors that life brings, she has shown me incredible care and compassion. Through her own challenges has shown grace and resilience. She has guided me to see how wonderful the complexity and uniqueness of this life really is,” Doran explained. 

While it is difficult to say goodbye to a professor, the memories and lessons they created will last a lifetime. “I am unexplainably grateful for the brilliant light that Michele has continued to share with the Gustavus community and I wish her all the joy as she starts this new step in her journey,” Doran concluded. 

While the concert is commemorating Rusinko, it’s also celebrating the art of dance as a whole. “‘that single fleeting moment’ was selected because that is the essence of dance, its ephemerality.  It happens and then it disappears, never to be recaptured or repeated in exactly the same way,” Rolnick said. 

The rawness that dance exudes is a key theme that Rolnick is capturing in this program. “When one dances on the stage, [that] dancer is committing to the moment, which is a courageous act, because of the vulnerability it takes to be totally present and exposed. Hopefully, the essence of the experience [of] viewing the dance lives on in the memories of the audience,” Rolnick stated.  

Such a program undertook diligent practices, but such an approach will be worthwhile for the final product. “The dance concert makes me smile when I see all of the long hours of hard work come to fruition, as well as the beautiful dances in collaboration with light, costume, and set designs,” Rolnick said. 

The director is looking forward to the audience’s reactions to the pure, choreographed movement. “I am excited for people to have the experience of the dance and to be moved by what they see and feel as audience members. Often contemporary dance lives in the abstract world- not following a particular storyline/narrative, but rather giving voice to feelings, images, and ideas,” Rolnick said. 

“Since we all have bodies, there is a level of understanding that is intrinsic to who we are. Dance is an essential human expression that lives deeply in all of us,” Rolnick emphasized. 

The concert is also featuring the accomplishments of the Gustavus Dance Company, one being Abigail Doran’s nationally recognized solo choreographed by Jill Patterson. “The solo, ‘Veneer’ was invited to perform in the American College Dance Association Festival in Long Beach California the last weekend in May. It is a huge honor, enabling Gustavus to have a national profile and was selected out of 30 dances from different colleges/universities throughout the country,” Rolnick said. 

“I am feeling very honored to have been selected to perform at the ACDA National Conference. Starting with being selected for the Gala Concert for the ACDA North-Central Conference in Lincoln, Nebraska and now moving forward to Nationals has left me feeling very grateful for these opportunities and for the support that I have received from my professors, choreographers, directors, and friends here in the Gustavus dance program,” Doran stated. 

With this opportunity, Doran is eager to further embrace the dancing community. “Not only am I excited for this chance to represent Gustavus as a performer, but I am also excited to engage with other performers and choreographers during the conference and see some amazing pieces from across the nation,” Doran said. 

As a soon-to-be graduate in May, Doran is especially grateful for the guidance of Rusinko, Rolnick, and other major figures in the Dance department. “At Gustavus, I have learned how to respect and uplift the way that I am able to move, finding ways that embrace my limits and push beyond them,” Doran added.