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Minnesota State University, Mankato
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Dance with 'Diplomacy'

When the curtain opens on Daniel Stark’s contempo­rary dance number, “Diplomacy,” it’s OK for the audience to laugh.

Tanner Kent, Mankato Free Press, 4-20-12

When the curtain opens on Daniel Stark’s contempo­rary dance number, “Diplomacy,” it’s OK for the audience to laugh.

The Minnesota State University dance instructor characterizes his piece as “ violent and full of energy.”

But it’s also an absurdist’s perspec­tive on contemporary politics as seen through contemporary dance.

“ The piece looks at all aspects of diplomacy,” Stark said. “I hope the audience laughs.”

Stark’s number is one of several featured in the MSU Department of Theatre and Dance’s spring concert that opens April 27. Also featured are two dances by instructor Julie Kerr-Berry and dances by three dance majors — Bridget Carlson, Alexa Lautenbach and Sydney Burch — whose pieces were selected by instructors.

Kerr-Berry’s “Dance of Light” closes the concert and is an “explo­sion of movement” that includes 15 dancers.

Also included is a tarantella (a live­ly Italian folk dance) by MSU instruc­tor Jill Lile and a guest piece choreo­graphed by the Minneapolis-based Zenon Dance Company, a repertory dance company that melds modern and jazz styles.

Stark said Zenon dancers spent a week-long residency at MSU, teaching classes to students and coaching them on a dance called “11 in the Light.”

Stark said the dance is a “movement piece” that celebrates the human body.

“(Zenon) is one of the top dance companies in the Twin Cities,” Stark said. “It’s very exciting to have them.”

As for Stark’s dance, it takes place around a negotiation table with suited officials bargaining, arguing and attempting to find common ground.

He wrote the piece in 2003 while a graduate student at the University of Iowa. That year, he was given the rare honor of performing it at the University’s annual dance gala, which is typically reserved for faculty pieces.

Since that time, “Diplomacy” has been staged by several dance companies across the country, including Aha! in Kansas City and Same Planet Different World in Chicago. He also staged it for the National Showcase at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., prompting one reviewer to call it a “standout” performance.

And though the dance is almost 10 years old, Stark said it remains relevant.

“ With the current state of politics, it’s so easy to make fun,” Stark said.

“It writes itself.” MSU’s dance program went from a minor only to adding a major in 2005.

It remains the only dance major in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System and is one of only a few colleges and universities in the state to offer the major.

This fall, Kerr-Berry said the department is admitting the first four students into a new degree that has an emphasis on performance.

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