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ISSUE 117 VOL 15 PUBLISHED 4/9/2004

Savoring last dance: Veselica performs to global beat

By Cate Grochala
Staff Writer

Friday, April 9, 2004

St. Olaf got a little taste of international dance last weekend when Veselica, the campus international dance ensemble, performed its spring concert. The 19-member ensemble, directed by dance Professor Anne Von Bibra, performed a variety of ethnic dances from around the world.

The program for the spring concert was diverse, featuring dances from countries such as Ireland, Indonesia and Mexico. The ethnic dances were both traditional, such as the Albanian "Valle e Quemali," and modern, such as the Indian "Mahi Ve."

Some dances were performed in pairs, others in large group circles, and the Sumatran Saman dance was performed with dancers sitting on the floor in a line, using their hands to dance.

While some of the dances came from professional ethnic dance associations and Von Bibra's experience as a performer in Ethnic Dance Theatre, many of the pieces were staged by students who had been abroad or whose cultural heritage was reflected in the dances. Von Bibra noted that one performer, Lily Moua '06, recently returned from Term in Asia, where she made a point to learn a new dance in each country she visited.

The Vietnamese Flat Hat Dance and the Chinese Ribbon Dance were both dances learned abroad by Moua, and were featured in the concert.

Another student currently studying abroad, Laura Conger '06, staged the "Bulgarian Suite" of Dances from Thrace and Dobrudza. Conger is currently studying at the National Conservatory for Folk Arts in Bulgaria, but Veselica featured the piece in their spring concert and will perform it again at the Festival of Nations in early May.

Veselica performed at a number of small events during the fall semester. This year, they performed at a Northfield elementary school, the Nobel Peace Prize Forum and Movimento. At their spring concert, they performed all the dances they learned throughout the year.

Auditions for Veselica take place each fall, and the group rehearses twice weekly. The dancers perform both large group dances, in which all members participate, and small group dances. At rehearsals, it is not unusual for different sides of the room to be working on different dances.

Amy Bodart '04, a two-year member of Veselica, said that the biggest challenge faced by performers is the tech rehearsals, in which members may spend nearly four hours per day during the week of their concert rehearsing their dances.

"Sometimes you have to remind yourself why you're here and why you do what you do," Bodart said. "[But] it gives us an opportunity for coming together as a diverse group of people, building community, and sharing these dances with each other."

David Schiedler '04, who joined the ensemble this year, agreed with Bodart's praise of the group camaraderie. "I only wish I'd gotten involved sooner," he said. "The friendships between members are important, and learning the dances is fun."

Nicole Smith '04, a 2nd-year member of the ensemble, agreed that camaraderie is an important part of the Veselica experience. She also said that "international dance provides a window into other cultures that we might not see."

Bodart said that the dances Veselica performs "show a lot of different cultures and peoples. [They show] that there are other cultures beyond the United States and beyond the Norwegian culture that we learn about here."

Put simply, Schiedler said, Veselica is "a way to celebrate and enjoy diversity on campus."

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