Artist Profile: WWU presents original student choreography in ‘Winter Dances’

Abigail Kerns, who goes by Abi, is among the performers in Western Washington University’s production of “Winter Dances” at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Sunday, Jan. 15-17, and 2 p.m. Jan. 18 at Western’s Performing Arts Center.

The evening of original student choreography is an annual event that is part of the only bachelor’s of fine art dance program in Washington. Performances are contemporary and impressionistic, rather than a specific form, such as ballet or hip-hop. Students in the dance major study choreography, dancing, and lighting design.

Now in her fifth year at Western, Kerns, 22, is working toward a bachelor’s degree in fine arts in dance and a bachelor’s in design. Not only is she a dancer, she works in the office of the theater and dance department and is a marketing event assistant for Acupuncture Health Center.

Question: How did you decide to attend Western?

Answer: Last year I spent five months studying abroad at the Universidad de Granada in Granada, Spain, but for the rest of my studies I have been at Western. I knew I was meant to be at WWU from my first moments on campus. During the tour of campus, it rained the whole time and I was soaked to the bone. Even in my rain-drenched state I still knew this is where I wanted to be.

Q: When did you become interested in dance and pursuing it seriously?

A: I am not sure I can pinpoint an exact moment I decided to pursue dance. I started my mildly serious initial training when I was 14, but coming to Western I was introduced to modern dance and I truly fell in love. I knew I wanted to be dancing for the rest of my life, and getting a degree seemed like the best way to do it. Soon I became so involved with the department that going for my BFA seemed like the next step toward a successful career.

Q: Who are some of your inspirations?

A: I try to listen and learn from all the artists I come into contact with. Their passion and dedication pushes me to dream bigger and incorporate more into my own studies. This includes the faculty, my peers, and anyone I meet who is passionate about dance.

Q: Why do you like to dance?

A: Every dance is like a puzzle. It is a problem that needs solving and all the steps are the pieces. Finding a solution is the moment I live for.

Once you find one solution, the next step is to look for another way to solve the puzzle. Can you do the movement a little bit faster? Stretch a little bit further? Hold a little bit longer? Is there another way to transition from one step to another? Can I do the same movement but express a different feeling? Can the relationship of the music and movement change?

The puzzles are endless. The number of solutions are numerous, and I look forward to finding many of them.

Q: What has been one of your greatest experiences so far in dance?

A: My most fulfilling dance experiences always involve successful explorations with other people. For example, this past quarter the Modern 3/4 class had an improv session that lasted for nearly two hours, I learned more in that two hours about my peers and other movement styles than I had discovered in weeks.

Having the ability to open up to other possibilities is how you discover and explore ideas that would have never crossed your mind.

Q: Any embarrassing moments?

A: My most embarrassing moment was probably this gnarly fall I had two years ago. I was performing in a final for a choreography class, and the choreographer had asked me and the other dancer to travel a lot on this particular step. During the performance, my bottom foot slipped out from under me as I kicked my other leg. The crowd of students made this movie-sound gasp as my butt collided with the floor. The bruise lasted for weeks.

Q: What might people expect at “Winter Dances”?

A: “Winter Dances” is a show that highlights student choreography and performance in a professional setting. Nine advanced student choreographers have cast and choreographed new works. This show allows young artists to explore their creative ideas under the guidance of (professor of dance) Nolan Dennett, and other faculty.

Each piece has something different to offer. Audiences can expect to see a wide range of technical challenges and abounding performance qualities that will transport them through numerous places, times, and emotions.

Q: What’s in your future after WWU?

A: The future is still wide open for me. I have my sights on New York City, but I am looking forward to any and all new opportunities ahead.