By Viola Cai, SMTD Publicity Intern
“As director of dance, I am delighted to invite you to our Spring Dance Concert during my last semester at CSU,” said Jane Slusarski-Harris, who retires at the end of the academic year. “This is a spectacular production created by our exceptionally talented faculty, staff, and students. With contributions from CSU musicians, choreographers, performers, designers, and technicians, this concert of variety and pure fun will captivate your body, mind, and spirit!”
The 2018 Spring Dance Concert on April 20-21 serves as a special retirement ceremony for Slusarski-Harris, who has devoted herself to CSU Dance for thirty years. The diverse cast consists of the entire dance faculty, as well as collaborations with other areas from the School of Music, Theatre, and Dance.
“This concert is the product of Jane’s influence,” says Madeline Harvey, assistant professor of dance. “Her legacy is so strong and she has left such mark on the dance community at CSU and Fort Collins. I hope that with this last concert, she feels a great sense of pride and the excitement of moving forward to her next life adventures.”
A Captivating Creation
On the concert, Madeline Harvey reimagines her original work “Ubuntu,” which is about loss and hope and the ways we can support and help each other. The piece is set to Max Bruch's “Kol Nidrei,” and was inspired by real-life stories from members of the National Organization of Parents of Murdered Children. She will also premiere an original contemporary pas de deux with Matthew Harvey. For the couple, the co-created piece has been a path for better understanding each other and has become a great gift to share with the dance community.
Madeline Harvey will also dance Slusarski-Harris’ solo choreography that expresses ideas about educational equality for women. Slusarski-Harris believes that providing equal educational opportunities for females around the world is one of the most important responsibilities people have as a global society.
Madeline Harvey says the retiring professor is an inspiring mentor who has remained invested and dedicated to the development of the program, even in her last semester; the other faculty members feelthe same. For the concert, Professor Chung-Fu Chang is expressing his respect for Slusarski-Harris by performing a solo piece themed on a past memory, and Dance Instructor Judy Bejarano is contributing to the concert with her good friend and colleague of more than twenty-eight years in mind.
The eighteen students in the Contemporary Repertory Ensemble are performing “Breath, Land, and Sky,” directed and choreographed by Bejarano. The class has worked with Scenic Designer Heidi Larson, creating different landscapes and terrains where huge moving panels give people a sense of Moab in Utah.
The artistic collaboration continues throughout the concert adds faculty member Amber Mazurana, who is recreating “These Moments,” with live music by staff pianist David McArthur. Originally created for IMPACT Dance Company in 2017, Mazurana continues exploring the subtle to abrasive moments that define our lives, exposing our shared humanity and essential need of support.
“Having the musician right there on the stage, I can feel his physicality. We don’t have to directly respond to each other, but the emotion, repetition, vibration, and connection with the musician is flowing in the air,” noted Mazurana, “I am also very excited to see all the little pieces come together through the cooperation of different department members.”
When talking about Slusarski-Harris’ retirement, Madeline Harvey feels bittersweet, “Jane is a huge reason why I came to the University. During my interview process, I asked her what she hoped CSU dance students would gain from the program. Her response was about kindness and about teaching students to be kind artists and to give back the world around them.”
Not only are faculty members devoted to this concert, the dance students are certainly giving back to their professor through their intense efforts as well as collaborations with theatre student stage designers, costume designers, and production managers. For this concert, Slusarski-Harris selected four student dance pieces, covering various topics from social issues to discovering humanity. According to Slusarski-Harris, the process of producing the dance concert is a great learning experience.
Sam Lewis, the choreographer and dancer of one of the chosen pieces, was inspired by the Female Empowerment Women’s March this past Jan. Lewis wants to advocate for women through her feminist dance piece, showing the struggle against patriarchy and the power of the all-female group. Lewis is also looking forwarding to seeing the faculty pieces as it will be a new experience to see her professors performing on the stage.
At the same time, Madeline Harvey is excited about dancing with the students, who are closely watching the professors for the technique they have been taught. “To be honest and to sweat with the group is a great moment in the school year for everyone,” she said.
Another student selection, “Leave the Light On” is choreographed and danced by Katelyn Doyle and Julianna Williams, who are working with lighting and costumes to achieve the best expression of their theme about struggling with troubles like depression and anxiety. The duet also expresses a process for understanding and helping each other. “One thing good about the dance department is that we always do things together, so we are like a big family,” noted Williams as she is excited to perform with her good friend and classmate.
A Final Creation
As the head of dance at CSU for three decades, Slusarski-Harris shared her unwavering passion for the art form and nurtured and trained hundreds of students. “Dance can be many things to many different people: it can be therapeutic, it can be cultural, it can be spiritual, and it can be social…much of what we do comes from the desire to create art and to see it,” stated Jane Slusarski-Harris.
Everyone in the dance family has made great efforts to present a fantastic and collaborative creation for Slusarski-Harris, celebrating her thirty years of service. A reception in the raised lobby will immediately follow the concert on Saturday evening, April 21. We hope that you will join us for a wonderful evening of dance, followed by this celebration of our esteemed colleague and friend!
Tickets for the performance are $6.50 for CSU students, $12 for youth (under 18), and $17 for seniors (62+), and $22 for adults. Tickets are available at the University Center for the Arts (UCA) ticket office in the UCA lobby Monday through Friday, 3:30-5:30 p.m. and 60 minutes prior to performances, by phone at (970) 491-ARTS (2787), or online at csuartstickets.com.