Dance alumni return, perform at UI


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Joanna Rosenthal remembers the loft in the University of Iowa's dance building, Halsey Hall. She recalls the big, old open space in the beginning of the fall or spring semesters, when sunlight shone in and noises from campus filtered through the open windows as dance students grand-jetéd across the room.

"Just being able to take dance classes, and choreograph, and rehearse in a space that's so inspiring — I just always remember myself in that room," she said.

UI Dance Department alumna Rosenthal returned this week along with eight other alumni for the university's second Dance Alumni Week, which will culminate in performances at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday in North Hall's Space/Place.

Rosenthal, the artistic director of Chicago's Same Planet Different World dance theater and a teacher at the Columbia College dance center, is excited about being back at the UI and seeing former professors and current students.

"It's just such a great energy there. I have such an attachment to it," she said. "It feels like my home. I'm always excited to go back and visit and dance, feel the vibe."

One thing she hopes to impart to the students is the importance of dedication and perseverance in dance. Despite all of the values and technical skill that the UI taught her, she said, the commitment dance takes every day was something she had to learn herself.

"Outside of school, the bubble kind of bursts, and there's a big reality out there," she said. "I think that's hard to teach inside a place that fosters such a great energy and opportunity."

Another alumna returning this weekend is Eleanor Goudie-Averill, an adjunct professor at Temple University and a dancer for two companies in Philadelphia. She said bringing alumni to the UI will show the students the importance of versatility in dance and that there are many different pathways one may take.

"Sometimes, we get a really limited mindset in dance that you're going to go out and get a job with one company or one university, and that's just not the way it is," she said. "You have to do so many different things and wear so many different hats."

Going for the things that they want is another idea that Goudie-Averill wants to leave with the students. She said the young dancers need to trust themselves and trust their knowledge.

"Things are so much less scary than you think they will be. It seems so terrifying until you do it," she said. "If you have a dance fantasy, at least try to see where that can get you."

Professor Armando Duarte, an organizer of Dance Alumni Week, stressed the importance of the interaction among the alumni and the students during classes, panels, and lectures, as well as the performance. He said seeing the paths that the alumni take helps the students find their own.

"College, despite the field, the major, despite the ups and downs, despite the danger of learning about life, college is also about perspectives for the future, and that comes with different feelings," he said. "But one thing for sure — when you think about the future, you have to think about the past."

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