This past weekend, senior dance majors performed in the sunlit space of Palm Court in Loyola’s Mundelein Center at the Dance Senior Showcase. Each performance — the culmination of the seniors’ time at Loyola — was unique, and each dancer had her own special relationship to the university’s dance program.
The PHOENIX had the opportunity to speak with each of them about growth and future plans after graduating.
Yariana Baralt Torres
Yariana Baralt Torres, a dance and sociology double major, and she worked with choreographer Stephanie Martinez, a Chicago-based Latina artist. Each dancer could choose someone they wanted to work with on her piece.
Baralt Torres said her family was affected by hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, and she wanted her performance to reflect the struggle she overcame
“This past year was really emotional for me,” the 21-year-old said. “My whole family is from Puerto Rico and the hurricane affected them a lot so I was dealing with that and being a student and growing [and] transitioning to becoming an adult. All of that was kind of putting a lot of pressure on me and I went through a really hard year.”
Baralt Torres said one of her proudest moments during her time at Loyola was when she was chosen to represent the dance program at the American College Dance Association conference. She also said she’s proud of the program as a whole.
“I feel really proud of the program … [and] how we use dance for social justice [and] how we use dance not just for dance but to inform audiences to bring awareness to issues,” she said.
After graduation, Baralt Torres plans to go to Utah to work with the SALT Contemporary Dance company.
Maria Blanco, 21, said she’s valued the opportunity to blend social justice and dance together at Loyola.
Her solo performance was inspired by her choreographer, Kristina Isabelle. Blanco said Isabelle did an improv dance expressing her frustration with President Donald Trump and his politics regarding Russia.
Blanco said social justice values extend beyond the showcase. The dance program does a performance at Loyola’s annual Climate Change Conference, and Blanco said the performance strikes people in a unique way.
“It’s always a very emotional performance, and it’s always to an audience that usually doesn’t know anything about dance,” the sociology major said. “Maybe they see something and don’t think twice about it, but maybe there’s one person in the audience who sits there, sees us dance and goes ‘That made me feel something and I’m gonna go forth and do something about the issue.’”
Blanco is a choreographer as well as a performer. She created a work about social justice, women and beauty standards called “Razor Burn,” which was shown at Loyola’s Annual Dance Concert last semester.
Going forward, Blanco said she will audition for dance companies, freelance and look for other ways she can create.
Katarina Ivanovic said she wanted to give an emotionally driving performance at the senior showcase. She chose to work with Joffrey Ballet dancer Derrick Agnoletti — someone she admires.
She danced to a rendition of “Hallelujah” by a capella group Pentatonix. Ivanovic said she liked the song because of its universal appeal.
“Something I love about that song is it’s so versatile,” Ivanovic said. “If you are in one situation the song will fit somebody in their mood. But then it can fit somebody else in the mood that they’re in or whatever’s going on in their life.”
Ivanovic who is also on the pre-optometry track, said she plans on taking some science classes after graduating with her dance major. She said she hopes to combine both fields in her career.
Ivanovic said dance is something she will continue to keep in her life.
“Dance doesn’t leave you,” she said.
Jordan Kunkel, a dance and journalism double major, found a way to incorporate both into her career at Loyola.
When she isn’t dancing, she’s working with Loyola’s Department of Fine Arts marketing and communications. Kunkel said the job allows her to share her passion for dance.
“I really love the idea of being able to educate others about dance and about art and being able to really advocate for all artists on campus,” the 21-year-old said.
Kunkel’s performance was choreographed under the guidance of Robyn Mineko Williams. Kunkel said Mineko Williams staged the work for a professional dancer previously, but she made it her own through her style. Kunkel said she likes the individuality Loyola’s dance program fostered.
“We all came in as very different people and that’s something you see in the showcase,” Kunkel said. “Each of our solos are totally different and Loyola, instead of turning us into all the same type of robot dancer, they let us grow as individuals and we all formed our own path.”
Kunkel said she plans on pursuing a career in performance, choreography and writing about dance.
Sofia Mazich, a dance and statistics double major, found a way to integrate the seemingly opposite fields together through research.
“I’m a firm believer of using both sides of the brain,” the 21-year-old said. “It’s kind of how I was raised with my parents growing up, and Loyola gave me that opportunity to combine both of these majors together.”
Her solo performance was choreographed by Luc Jacobs, but she worked with Bobbi Jene Smith who staged it. Mazich said she met Smith at the San Francisco Conservatory and reached out to her for the show.
Mazich credits the Loyola faculty for mentoring and helping her grow as a dancer. She said she’s been auditioning for some companies and plans to continue after graduation.
Mazich said she thinks it’s important for people to explore the arts.
“Please come support dance, support the arts,” Mazich said. “Don’t be afraid to come to a show and spend money to see something that you’re not sure about … It’s a valid task that needs to be done in this world.”
Dance and statistics double major Sharidan Rickmon said she felt the performance was emotional for all the dancers.
“Before, we were like ‘I can’t wait for the solo to be over because I’m tired of rehearsals at 10 a.m,’” the 21-year-old said. “Just now it was so emotional to dance like that for the last time, and after, I wish I could go through the whole process again.”
Choreographed by Chaniece Holmes, her performance explores what it means to be African American in college.
“It was just an emotional experience to do everything and to realize who I am as a person,” Rickmon said. “That’s what college is about — finding yourself — and I feel like I found myself this year.”
Rickmon also did research on the dance world and examined diverse representation in ballet. She said she will graduate this fall after completing a minor in physics. In 2019, she plans to teach high school math for two years as part of Teach For America.
While the senior dance program was small, the showcase demonstrates the larger impact the students have made at Loyola. Loyola students can follow the Department of Fine Arts on its website and social media for updates on future dance and performing arts performances.