Four Ohio State graduate students are pirouetting from all corners of the country and the classroom to make their showcase at Columbus’ annual OhioDance Festival.
Executive director of OhioDance Jane D’Angelo describes the conference as one that supports the diverse practices of dance through education, performances, outreach programs and professional development. The festival is a celebration of these works coming together by way of workshops, classes, discussions and performances.
“What we’re looking at for the showcase is a variety of styles and ages — diversity, not only among professionals, but also pre-professionals,” D’Angelo said. “Four graduate students is a significant number, especially at the graduate level. I think this is the first year I’ve seen this many students from OSU taking part in this festival.”
The name of the event is “Dance Matters: Engaging Communities.” Although the festival is native to Columbus, many of the event’s multi-talented performers and choreographers are not, including the four OSU students involved in the show.
After working professionally for five years in Chicago and Pennsylvania, Josh Manculich, a Master of Fine Arts dance student, said it was both his family and desire to grow at OSU that influenced his decision to accept a three-year fellowship at the university.
“I get to go to school, work and see my family all in one place,” Manculich said.
Manculich will be performing a solo piece in the concert lineup, as well as teaching a contemporary dance class in hopes of drawing dancers with various levels of experience.
“It’s going to be a time where we can explore different pathways and movements that all ranges of movers can do,” Manculich said. “I like offering a class for everyone so some people can be challenged and others can get in more practice.”
Also teaching a class, as well as performing two solos, is Master of Fine Arts dance student Sarah Levitt. After two years of freelancing in dance capitals like Washington, D.C., and New York, then touring with a dance company, Levitt came to Columbus to develop her skills in dance education.
Levitt said she was excited about her time working with the festival’s special guest Liz Lerman, a choreographer, dancer, performer and writer.
“(Lerman) is just really incredible at making connections between subject matters — how dance relates to the world, to politics, to science,” said Levitt. “I always relish the chance to work with her.”
Lerman founded the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange in 1976, a prominent contemporary dance company that was on the forefront of advocating social justice through dance and movement with its multi-generational ensemble, according to her website. Lerman has since received numerous honors in the dance world including the 2002 MacArthur “Genius Grant” Fellowship and a 2011 United States Artists Ford Fellowship in Dance. She will speak at the festival and teach a master class Saturday morning.
Along with anticipating Lerman, the students also shared an eagerness to showcase their work to the greater Columbus community as well as meet others in the dance field.
“Coming from the professional dance world, we’re used to having to hustle to get our work seen, but OSU gives you that opportunity to get work showcased,” Levitt said.
Similarly, Tammy Carrasco, a Master of Fine Arts dance student from North Carolina, is excited that OhioDance provides a platform for students’ work to be seen.
Carrasco will be presenting a choreographed work entitled “Les Fauves (the Wild Beasts)” that will be performed by three OSU dance students. The work is based on a group of modern French Fauvist artists, who painted bold colors to replace standard representation of humans and life.
A former freelance dancer and teacher based in New York and later Philadelphia, Carrasco said she was attracted to the Department of Dance’s curriculum because of its relationships.
“I’m constantly inspired by the values of the faculty in this supportive community. OSU is unique in how there is a symbiotic relationship in this department,” Carrasco said. “There’s a collaborative mentality here that resonates with the greater dance field, and I think OhioDance acknowledges that as well. We spend so much time looking inward and practicing outward to cultivate strong talent, and that hard work is valued and legible by the outside world.”
A Ph.D. student in the Department of Dance at OSU, Lyndsey Vader said she left her general manager position in New York City to “discover who she is as a scholar at Ohio State.”
“I am very much interested in finding out how I fit into the world of research that currently exists in the dance world. There a lot of discovery to be had concerning the moving body,” Vader said.
Like many others, Vader is excited to engage beyond the walls of the studio. After showcasing her choreography inspired by Joseph Campbell’s “The Hero with A Thousand Faces,” Vader hopes to connect with peers and professionals at the festival.
“There is a very clear sense of vitality here in relationship to what kind of opportunities (OhioDance) is providing to the local dance community,” Vader said.
“For me, the balance between the practical and theoretical is essential to how I construct my own sense of identity.”
The OhioDance Festival will start on Friday with a Young Artists’ Concert at 10:30 a.m., an hour-long event featuring local dancers ranging from elementary schools to high schools. Next on the lineup, choreographers will teach a series of master classes from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. in various styles including contemporary, ballroom, hip hop and Indian dance.
The rest of the weekend will be packed with dance-inspired recreational activities and classes such as Pilates, musical theater, jazz, Flamenco, ballet, tap, modern and South African dance.
“This year, we partnered with OSU sports medicine to create body release and aerobics classes,” D’Angelo said of the special classes that will be offered.
Saturday events roll into the evening with discussions, an evening performance and an award ceremony. The evening performances start at 6:30 p.m.
OhioDance Festival will be held at The BalletMet Performance Space, located at 322 Mt. Vernon Ave. For tickets, class schedules, and more information, visit ohiodance.org.