Kent Dance Ensemble gives dancers a professional atmosphere

Alyssa Sparacino

The transition from college to the “real world” seems to be a universal struggle for college students. The Kent Dance Ensemble aims to help student dancers with that abrupt change, giving them professional surroundings and opportunities.

The ensemble is a student performing group created in 1990. Kim Karpanty, associate dance professor and artistic director for the ensemble, has been leading the group since 1996.

“It was established to help students bridge the gap between dancing in the university program and dancing for a professional company,” she said.

She added that the purpose of the ensemble is to mimic the experiences the dancers will have as professionals.

Any dance major or minor can audition for the ensemble, but Karpanty said there are generally more performance majors than education majors in the group.

Leah Brady, senior dance performance major, serves as the student artistic director for the ensemble this year and has been an involved member for three years.

“The biggest thing for me is that it’s another performing opportunity,” she said. “You get to work with guest artists, which really appealed to me.”

Brady also said that as a sophomore, when she first joined the ensemble, it gave her a chance to meet more dancers in the program, some of whom she became close with.

“It was an excellent opportunity for me to get to know older peers of mine,” she said. “Now many of us are friends outside of the ensemble. We’re a cohesive group.”

Karpanty said the dancers sign a one-year contract as their commitment to the ensemble, and they are allowed to participate in only one other performance piece outside of the group.

However, with one to three guest artists the ensemble brings in each school year, and the pieces choreographed for them by faculty members, the dancers don’t lack performance opportunities.

Being a part of the ensemble is a “coveted position” because of the work with guest artist, Karpanty said.

Although, with that position comes greater expectations, she added.

“This group of students represents our department,” Karpanty said. “They are expected to be professionals in class and in their work ethic.”

Among the guest artists there are also four resident professional dance companies within the dance faculty, she said.

“We’re trying to give them professional contacts within the dance community,” Karpanty said. “They get a chance to build their reputations for themselves.”

The ensemble’s educational outreach program is one way the dancers become visible in the Kent and surrounding communities.

The program has the ensemble visiting K-12 schools giving lectures and demonstrations, as well as holding workshops.

Brady said she finds the visits to be both a learning and rewarding experience.

“Because I dance almost every day, I forget sometimes how new it is to some people and how interesting and fun it is the first time you do it,” she said. “To see people react to that makes you feel good.”

The Kent Dance Ensemble will perform pieces from its repertoire next semester April 4 through April 6 in E. Turner Stump Theatre.

Contact performing arts reporter Alyssa Sparacino at [email protected].