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Minnesota State University, Mankato
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Dance Earns Top National Honor

Minnesota State Mankato has one of 30 performed at National College Dance Festival.

Tanner Kent, Mankato Free Press, 6-1-2012

For Dan Stark, staging a work at the National College Dance Festival is nothing new.

The Minnesota State University dance instructor is now a thrice-selected choreographer for what is considered the top national honor for collegiate dance departments.

Not so for Bridget Carlson.

“I felt pretty honored,” said Carlson, a senior dance student who played a role in Stark's “ Crash,” which was one of 30 works select­ed for the biannual festival held last weekend at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.

“It was some of the best dancing I've ever seen.”

Stark’s dance actually began with a technical inno­vation.

Working alongside Steven Smith, an MSU lighting and design instruc­tor, Stark created a mobile stage light of sorts. Though somewhat heavy and cum­bersome, Stark envisioned a piece in which a dancer car­ried the only light source used during the dance.

With that idea in mind, he developed a narrative centered on the relationship between a man and woman, before and after a horrible car accident. But as tragedy and travail have a way of shaping, and sometimes mis- shaping, memory, the man is unable to disentan­gle the truth from his recol­lections.

To manifest what Stark calls “ the foggy edges of memory,” he used 10 dancers and his mobile light source to create a haunting atmosphere.

“I wanted to play with the idea of memory,” Stark said. “ It's a very sad piece.

... I didn't have the idea to create a sad dance. That’s just what the dance wanted to be.”

Stark was first selected to participate in the National College Festival in 2004 with “ Diplomacy,” an absurdist perspective on American politics.

Pieces are culled for the national showcase from a dozen regional events. In each region, two or three dances are selected by accredited judges for per­formance at the Kennedy Center.

Stark was selected for a second time in 2010 with “Politics Religion Sex.”

“It’s really quite an honor,” Stark said.

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