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Student Aspires to be a Dancing Dietician

Sophomore performed in three pieces at April 29-30 spring dance concert.

Robb Murray, Mankato Free Press, 4-28-2016

Rachel Dreist is just finishing her sophomore year at Minnesota State University, Mankato, where she’s studying to become a dietitian — but anyone with even a passing interest in dance would probably recognize her on campus.

Strikingly beautiful, lyrical poses, she has graced the cover of dance concert programs and has been the subject of promotional posters. And at the Spring Dance Concert this weekend (April 29-30), Dreist will perform in three of the seven pieces. She also performed in two pieces in the Fall Dance Concert.

But besides her talent on the stage — a skill she has been crafting since age 2, she says — Dreist has become a standout for a more recently developed skill: choreography.

Her contemporary lyrical piece, “Lecture,” was chosen by dance faculty, including professors Julie Kerr-Berry and Daniel Stark, to be featured in the Spring Dance Concert. This selection immediately follows her piece, “Stage 4,” having been selected to be performed in the Fall Dance Concert.

“It definitely feels like an honor,” said Dreist, 20, of Waterford, Wis. “I just like that they like my work. That, in itself, with Julie’s and Dan’s standards, when they like your work so much they would choose it again, that’s really cool.”

Kerr-Berry said it’s uncommon for the work of a student to be selected two semesters in a row for the main concert. Most student work is featured in the Student Showcase, held each semester on the Sunday following the main dance concert.

Only two to three slots are available to students in the main concerts, and there is an adjudication process to determine whose work will be chosen for those slots and for the Student Showcase, Kerr-Berry said.

“It’s based on choreographic merit, artistic merit,” she said. “We are looking for an idea that’s been realized, that we are able to see it, that it has an artistic logic to it. … You’d be surprised how you can see things that are not fully cooked, when it’s still in an incubation process.”

Dreist, a dance teacher at Dance Express, has not taken long to develop “fully cooked” work. She only started dabbling in choreography her senior year of high school when she worked with Sparrow Dance Company of Burlington, Wis.

“They let me choreograph with them, and that really helped me learn,” she said.

It also helped her start to see how much she loves to set work on other dancers, a creative itch that performing can’t quite get at.

“I really like seeing something you have in your head, and then you see it in progress, and finally you see it on stage,” she said. “Seeing your own work from beginning to end is a really cool feeling.”

Dreist is particularly proud of “Lecture,” which she hopes will give audience members something to think about. Her Choreographers Note in the program includes the quote by British philosopher Alan Watts, “So it’s a question fundamentally, do you define yourself as a victim of the world or as the world?”

Dreist said her newer found passion for choreography will hopefully open her up to new opportunities in dance in the future.

The entire version of this story can be read in a print copy of the Mankato Free Press. Call the Mankato Free Press at 625-4451 or (800) 657-4662 to find out how to purchase a print copy. The Free Press also prints select stories online at

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