Personal experiences to set tone at IMPULSE


Sophomore exercise science major Emily Jarosz and freshman theatre studies major Carly Ameling practice for their upcoming performance at dress rehearsal.

Dara Sander

Personal experience and the urge to move are the driving forces behind the BFA Senior Dance Concert/Student Dance Festival: IMPULSE. 

Beginning Friday, March 13 in the Erdmann-Zucchero Black Box Theatre in the Center for the Performing Arts, audiences will be able to enjoy choreography and performances by junior and senior students in the dance program at the festival.

There are nine student pieces and five BFA pieces, said Barbara Allegra Verlezza, associate dance professor and dance concert co-coordinator. 

The five senior BFA dance performance majors who are showcasing their capstone projects are: Jennifer Ames, Roberta Bailey, Jessica Gasdick, Nina Price and Dana Wasielewski. 

The students collaborated and came up with the dance festival name: IMPULSE. 

“I think they chose it because we all have an impulse to move and then that is the beginning of something larger,” said Joan Meggitt, assistant dance professor and dance concert co-coordinator. “There’s an impulse for an idea that becomes a whole dance. An impulse that makes you move and then that becomes a whole piece of choreography.”  

In this year’s concert, the students have delved into very emotional and serious issues that can affect everyone.

Meggitt said there’s a piece about suicide.

“(It’s) about the loss of a friend,” Meggitt said. “A lot of people can relate to that. I think it’s a concert that the audience can relate to. But it’s really going to be challenging because it’s hard to talk about those things.”

It’s challenging, but in a good way, Meggitt said. She said these are the questions we need to tackle as a society.

“I’m never surprised when a young artist is given an opportunity to have a voice…they’re usually going to gravitate to things that really affect them,” Verlezza said. “They have to tell the story of something that was really hard. They finally have a place to do it in a creative way, in an expressive way, and they can share that with an audience.”

Student choreographers used personal moments in their life to help come up with each performance.

Ames didn’t finalize her concept for the festival until a week before auditions started because she said she either wanted to do a piece of just exploring movement in general or off of a tragedy that happened in her family last year. Ames said her uncle was killed March 6, 2014.  

“(It) was very hard for me to go to that place of hurt and devastation to really explore what movement came out of that,” Ames said. “In the end, that’s what I chose to do. It really helped heal and seeing my dancers dance the way I feel from my (loss) and everything I have internalized I see on them, on their bodies now, is very beautiful to me.”

Q & A

Dara Sander: How did you get into dance?

Dana Wasielewski: “My mom was an influence because she was a dance teacher and she owns a studio. That’s how I got started. ”

Roberta Bailey: “I didn’t ask my mom to, but my older sister was in dance. So she just signed (me) up because when you have an older sister, you do everything that they do. I ended up falling in love with it, and my sister (ended) up quitting. My love of dance grew as I kept going.”

Jennifer Ames: “My grandmother was into the arts and old musicals. I grew up watching all those different moves in dance. One of my biggest influences was Micheal Flately of “Lord of the Dance.” I used to watch those films quite often. Since I moved the beat with the music so well, my parents decided it would be a good idea to sign me up. I started dancing when I was 6 with class and I’ve been dancing ever since.”

Jessica Gasdick: “My mom was a dancer when she was in high school. I would always find her shoes and put them on in the closet. So she decided, ‘alright we’re going to put you in dance classes. I don’t want to do daycare, so dance it is.’ I guess I just stuck with it after that.”

Nina Price: “My mom was a dancer and majored in dance when she went to school. She opened up a studio when she was really young. My whole family is a big family. With my mom having a studio and my older sister dancing, we just put me in there and like everyone else just fall in love with it.”

 Much like Ames, Gasdick said her piece is about loss as well.

When she was a sophomore in high school, Gasdick said her cousin passed away unexpectedly two weeks after his 30th birthday.

“No one saw it coming,” Gasdick said. “It was kind of a shock because he was so young. We all still feel he’s with us. There’s where I went with my piece: Your loved ones never really leave you.”

Bailey said she was inspired by a workshop she had gone to over the summer. It showed her a different way of moving she had never experienced before and she wanted to capture that, she said.

Meggitt said the student choreographers have taken on some really big topics, which is impressive in a young group of choreographers. 

The dancers also said it has been an interesting experience to step back from the stage and choreograph.

“I swear up and down that I’m a performer, not a choreographer. So this process was challenging for me,” Gasdick said. “I’m used to people telling me, ‘you do this set of eight and do that set of eight, alright go.’ The new challenge is to do that with other dancers. I’m starting to come around to it. I realize other dancers can facilitate movement that I necessarily can’t, so it’s fun to experiment with that.” 

Bailey said she likes the process of putting her movement on others, because it’s interesting and you look at it differently. 

“I love choreographing,” Bailey said. “More than choreographing, I just love collaborating… When you have so many ideas mixing and so many brains mixing, it’s really interesting to see what happens, the unpredictability. I get to create something out of thin air that will never be again and has never happened before.”

The Senior BFA/Student Dance Festival Concert will have two different performance options. Option A will be performed Friday, March 13 at 8 p.m. and Saturday, March 14 at 2 p.m., according to the Kent State website. Option B will be performed Saturday, March 14 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, March 15 at 2 p.m.

Contact Dara Sander at [email protected].