For the love of dance

Friday, April 30, 2004

Dance has allowed Katharine Stricker to break ground at Southeast Missouri State University by being the first person to receive a bachelor of fine arts degree in performing arts when she graduates in May, and in her personal life, where she has turned her experience with abuse into her senior dance project, "Bred Consciousness: (in)sight," which will be performed at the Student Performance Showcase Saturday evening.

In addition to Stricker's piece, the Student Showcase will feature works by students involved in DanceXpressions and the Department of Theatre and Dance.

When she first arrived at Southeast, Stricker was a girl from Springfield, Ill., who had been on her high school's pom-pom squad and had dreams of one day opening her own health-food store or becoming an elementary school teacher.

Stricker unsuccessfully tried out for the Sundancers, the university's dance team, her freshman year but did not consider dancing seriously until she attended a meeting of the university's dance club, DanceXpressions.

"I really felt at home with it," she said. The DanceXpressions meeting is also where she met Paul Zmolek, an assistant professor of dance at Southeast, who, along with Zmolek's wife and fellow dance professor, Josephine, strengthened Stricker's interest in dance.

Since she started taking dance classes at Southeast, Stricker was rehearsing 10 to 15 hours a week, but she knew if she pursued an education degree there would be no time for dance.

When a bachelor's degree in fine arts became available to students at Southeast a year and a half ago, Stricker's balancing act became more difficult as the dance curriculum became more demanding.

"I got to a point in my education where they said, 'you can't perform anymore if you're not training,'" she said.

The final shove, however, came from an unlikely source.

"A guardian angel appeared to me in the form of a shoe salesman," Stricker said. She said they chatted about dance, and when the salesman found out Stricker was not a dance major, he asked her why she was not pursuing something that made her face light up when she talked about it.

Stricker realized that "if someone else can tell I love dance that clearly," she was going to have to make a change.

While her parents weren't happy with the decision at first, Stricker said they have come to accept it and are proud of her.

"I think the more I'm involved, my parents see it's what I want to do and they're happy for me," she said.

It was actually a phone call Stricker had with her mother that served as an inspiration for "Bred Consciousness: (in)sight."

She started thinking about ideas for her senior project last summer, and was creatively stimulated by the American Dance Festival she attended in North Carolina.

When she returned to Cape Girardeau, Stricker had what she called a "profound" conversation with her mother that led to the reconstruction of their relationship. The phone call centered on how abuse they had faced created problems within their own relationship.

"It was that phone call which got me to the road of healing," Stricker said. It also reinforced the ideas she had about basing her senior project on the subject of abuse.

"I think the main reason I choreographed it is to create an awareness, because it's not something that's talked about," she said.

For most of the piece, all seven female dancers perform together, but there is also a duet and a solo dance.

Stricker refers to the duet as "the abuse dance." It features two dancers in a choreographed interpretation of an abusive relationship.

"I think I'm bringing out the emotional dynamic of the situation," she said. One person has all the power in an abusive relationship, and that can be seen through the dancers' movements, Stricker said.

According to Stricker, she was not the only person involved in this project that had been affected by some form of abuse, whether physical, mental or sexual. The stories of abuse offered by cast members about themselves or people they knew were recorded and then remixed with piano and guitar music.

Stricker wrote the piano pieces. The guitar work was supplied by Christopher Beasley and Joshua Maxwell. With help from music professor Dr. Robert Fruehwald, Stricker even mixed all the sounds together to create an audio component to her work.

"She's doing a very ambitious piece," said Zmolek, who has been Stricker's faculty adviser for the project.

Zmolek said some graduate-school student projects are not as fully realized as Stricker's.

"I would put this up against senior [dance] projects anywhere as far as sophistication and quality of work."

335-6611, extension 182

Want to go?

What: Southeast Missouri State University Department of Theatre and Dance Student Performance Showcase

When: 7 p.m. Saturday

Where: Forrest H. Rose Theatre

Info: Paul Zmolek, (573) 986-7492

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: