Years in the Making: Senior Dance Majors Showcase Their Art

Graduating senior dance majors are given the opportunity to showcase their talent and hard work in their final performance at CSU on Friday, May 3, 8 p.m., Saturday, May 4, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., Friday May 10, 8 p.m. and Saturday, May 11, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., 2013. With eight seniors this year, Sayaka Karasugi, Emily Aldag, Jennifer New, Melissa Smith, Mariah Ross, Molly Gray, Lauren Elster, and Brittany Adams, the show is being split into two weekends, four dancers featured each weekend.

The seniors put together the entire performance as their capstone project. In addition to dancing, they audition dancers, choreograph pieces, produce the technical elements, design costumes, and promote the performance. Each senior is required to put together a group piece and a solo performance.

“In addition to performing, choreographing and producing are so important, because the performance life of a dancer can be short lived,” noted Sayaka Karasugi. “But these other skills can lead to an equally successful career.”

With different “flavors,” week one performances include tap dancing, classical ballet, and modern dance. Week two consists of modern, personal movement, and contemporary ballet styles. The preparation has been accumulating since the beginning of their time at CSU, but the actual concert preparation began at the start of the spring semester.

“I like to think of it as a celebration of sorts,” said week two director, Mariah Ross. “Because it gives us, as seniors, a chance to show what we have learned and discovered during our time here at CSU – and it means so much to each of us.”

About the Capstone Students:

WEEK ONE: May 3 & 4

Sayaka Karasugi-Ruggles is originally from Kumamoto, Japan, and left her home country alone as a child, lived in three different countries, learned new language and made her career here in the United States. She has danced and performed as professionally in many places including all over Japan, Canada, and United States. Karasugi-Ruggles started her ballet training at Kumamoto Ballet, Japan when she was 5 years-old. She moved to Canada at age of 17, entered Royal Winnipeg Ballet School, Professional Division. After dancing with Royal Winnipeg Ballet Company for two years, Karasugi-Ruggles had decided to sign the contract with the Colorado Ballet in fall of 2000. Karasugi-Ruggles retired from Colorado Ballet as a soloist and enrolled as a non-traditional student with fast track program at Colorado State University, Department of Dance. She is planning to graduate with bachelor degree in dance in summer 2013.

Emily Aldag has been dancing since she was four, studying many different forms. In her time at CSU, she has performed in works choreographed by Katie Elliott and various student choreographers. She has choreographed six pieces while at CSU. She has participated in programs with children at CSU such as BRAINY and the Skinner/Safe program, as well as dancing through Parkinson’s group. After graduation, she will be participating in the Disney college internship in Orlando, Florida.

Jennifer New started dancing at a young age of four after she saw a small dance performance at a local fair. She danced through high school and danced in the summer traveling to places like Georgia and New York. She came to CSU and danced under Carol Roderick, and Chung-Fu Chang along with the other faculty and guest artists. Currently, Jennifer is teaching at the Front Range Classical Academy and looks to further her teaching skills in the next year.

Melissa Smith is originally from Grand Forks, North Dakota, but grew up in Winnemucca, Nevada where she began her dance training at Dominique’s School of Dance.  When she was 15, she and her family moved to Windsor, Colorado where Melissa continued dancing by becoming a member of the Windsor Magic Dance Team. Melissa began attending Colorado State University in fall 2008 and will graduate May 2013 with a B.A. in Performing Arts with a concentration in Dance and a minor in Business Administration. Outside of performing, Melissa has also created choreographic works while here at CSU. Upon graduating, Melissa will continue to dance in whichever form, technique, or profession her training takes her while pursuing a career in Event Coordination.

WEEK TWO: May 10 & 11

Molly Gray began her movement training at age 4 through gymnastics and dance training at a recreational dance studio in Fort Collins, Colorado.  Accepted into Colorado State University in 2006, Molly began studying and pursuing a degree in Human Development and Family Studies from which she received a B.S. in 2011. Upon her graduation from HDFS, Molly made the decision to return to school to pursue her lifelong dream of dancing professionally.  In addition to training and performing, her choreographic work has been featured in the 2012 Fall Faculty Concert, the 2013 Denver Dance Expo in Lakewood, Colorado. Molly will graduate in spring of 2013 with a B.A. in dance. Following graduation, she hopes to dance with a professional modern company. She hopes to have the opportunity to teach, choreograph, and be involved in outreach programs. Her long term plans also include spreading her love for dance and passion for people through dance therapy.

Mariah Ross, born and raised in Montrose, Colorado began dancing at the age of three and has not stopped since. In addition to performing at CSU, Mariah has choreographed a number of works, two of which have received recognition. Mariah was also a member of the 2012-2013 Tour Dance Company, and performed and participated in lecture demonstrations in schools all over Colorado. Ms. Ross has also used her skills as both a dancer and choreographer to teach hip-hop at an after school program at Putnam Elementary School and Lincoln Middle School called Break It!  Upon graduating in spring 2014 with a B.A. in Dance and also a B.S. in Human Development and Family Studies with a Pre-Occupational Therapy focus, Mariah plans to see where dance and choreography take her professionally and then go on to attain an Occupational Therapy Master’s Degree and one day work with pediatrics.

Brittany Adams began her training at The Boulder Ballet School at the age of eight.  During her training she attended many summer programs including Kansas City Ballet, American Ballet Theater, Joffrey Ballet, and after encouragement to pursue contemporary dance, Alonzo King’s LINES Ballet. After graduation from Silver Creek High School in 2009, Brittany began her college career at Colorado State University, where she is currently a senior. She has studied under Carol Roderick, Chung-Fu Chang, Jane Slusarski-Harris, Judy Bejarano, and Amber Mazurana. She was selected to work with guest choreographers Viktor Kabaniaev, Gabriel Masson, Kathryn Elliot, Judy Bejarano, and Richard Wacko. Last summer she attended The San Francisco Conservatory of Dance under the artistic direction of Summer Lee Rhatigan. Brittany is currently auditioning with dance and entertainment companies alike in hopes that she will start her career immediately upon graduation.

Lauren Elster, originally from Littleton, Colorado, began her dance training at the age of three at Belliston Academy of Ballet.  Accepted into the dance program at Marymount Manhattan College in New York City, New York, Lauren began training under professors Nancy Lushington, Peter Kyle, and Elena Commendador for her first year of school.  She then transferred to Chapman University where she continued training under Dale Merrill, Nancy Dickson-Lewis, Alicia Guy, Liz Maxwell, and Jennifer Backhaus for her sophomore year.  After taking a semester off, Lauren auditioned and was accepted into Colorado State University’s Dance Department continuing her training under Carol Roderick, Chung-Fu Chang, and Jane Slusarski-Harris. Lauren will graduate this spring with a B.A. in Performing Arts with a concentration in dance, as well as a minor in Media Studies. After graduation she hopes to dance with a professional contemporary ballet or ballet company.

The University Center for the Arts at Colorado State University provides an enriched venue in which the study and practice of Art, Dance, Music and Theatre are nurtured and sustained by building the skills and knowledge needed by future generations of arts professionals to become contributors to the essential vitality of our culture and society.