It seems there is nothing better in winter than to approach a fire, feel its warmth and become entranced watching its flames dance.

Gretchen Cohenour, WSU dance professor and founder of Dancescape, gently tells me that Dancescape is like approaching a fire–it is warm and welcoming, but also entertaining and thrilling to watch. It’s an opportunity to “chase away the winter’s doldrums” and enjoy art and the language of movement.

Dancescape’s 24th performance opens on Thursday, Feb 13 and features original choreography created by faculty, students and guest artists. There are 55 individuals involved in creating this annual production since the beginning of last semester.

The auditions to participate in Dancescape were open to the entire WSU community, even those with no previous dance, theater or performance experience. The arduous process of many auditions, the time and energy spent in hours of rehearsals and the collaboration to create such a full-fledged production ensures an unforgettable experience for all.

Veteran student choreographer/dancer/production assistant Sydney Swanson has participated in Dancescape since 2009, her freshman year at WSU.

She says that the opportunity to participate in Dancescape is “a chance to perform and choreograph something of meaning. To me, it isn’t just about showcasing the moves, but telling and expressing something.” Indeed, Swanson has been able to express a lot of herself as this is the third time her choreography has been chosen for Dancescape:

“My experiences being a choreographer have been challenging at times. I go through waves of thoughts and feelings. I think about my movement/concepts too much and wonder if people will “get them” and then I get out of my own way and just create movement. I feel self-conscious and then I feel completely confident in what I’ve made.

It comes and goes and there’s always something more I could have done. It’s extremely exciting to see the piece in it’s form in Dancescape though. Lights, costumes, movement. I could watch my piece this year over and over again.”

This year Swanson’s piece is titled “Building Sense.” Swanson will also be dancing in Cohenour’s “Keep These Animals Afloat.” Cohenour passionately relays to me that “dance is an art form that exists in time and space manifested through energy and weight and presence.

The time aspect makes it unique, like music, but its also visual, like paintings. It engages all the senses.” Cohenour gets inspired by watching things move, appreciating how even the tiniest snowflake has a movement phase full of spirals, flutters, texture and timing.

Certainly students and community members will be inspired and enthralled by the artistic excellence by very own community members. Dancescape is an opportunity for the WSU and Winona community to come together to appreciate art and the language of movement.

Each person will take something different away from their experience, but will never regret witnessing the beauty and expression of dance. For first time attendees, Dancescape’s founder, Gretchen Cohenour, suggests:

  • Come with an open mind
  • Suspend judgment
  • Engage the senses
  • Be present with what’s arising in each moment

Dancescape will be held at the Performing Arts Center on Winona State University’s campus.

  • Thursday, Feb 13 at 7:30 pm
  • Friday, Feb 14 at 7:30 pm
  • Saturday, Feb 15 at 7:30 pm

Tickets are $12 for the public and $8 for students. Following Thursday’s performance, there will be an audience “talk back” session with the choreographers.

Audience members can ask questions related to the performance, dance movements and their meaning.

— Courtney McCaw and Alyssa Sawinski