Dancing on the fringe

Professor of Dance Chris Johnson created a new work in collaboration with alumna Sarah Ellen Miller’15 and student Emma Logas’25 last May. The dance was invited to be a part of this fall’s Elgin Fringe Festival, held Labor Day Weekend. Because Miller was unavailable for the Fringe performance, Johnson invited Kateri Zitzelsberger’26 to step in. Logas and Zitzelsberger had to learn and reconstruct the emotionally and physically demanding piece extremely quickly to be ready for this exciting opportunity. 

Professor of Dance, Chris Johnson, enjoys working with dance alumni who are active in the professional world. She also loves connecting those alumni to students. In May of 2023 Johnson began work on a new project for the Going Dutch Festival in June collaborating with alumna and Chicago based professional dancer, Sarah Ellen Miller’15 and current student Emma Logas’25. The result was a new duet that, according to Johnson, “elucidates the experience of feeling split in two - emotionally, physically - the sways we feel in our daily lives.”

Johnson goes on to say, “the dance, which is titled Riven, is inspired by the current climate of division and polarization in our society that has led to extreme pressures on everyone’s mindset. The dancers represent two sides of one entity, alternately subverting and supporting each other while grappling with their individuality, exploring the pressures and pulls inherent in their connection and division.”

The work was also selected to be presented in the Elgin Fringe Festival, and because Miller was unavailable for this festival, Johnson invited current student Kateri Zitzelsberger’26 to learn the part originated by Miller. Johnson says she had complete faith in both Emma and Kateri and has been thrilled with their work. “I have been so incredibly impressed with both students’ professionalism while learning/relearning this complicated piece full of difficult partnering. The task was made even more challenging because of the speed with which they needed to learn it to be ready in time for the September 3 performance; and they showed artistic maturity beyond their years!”

Emma, who is from Davenport, Iowa and is a double major in Dance and Psychology says, “Dancing is something that has always been extremely important to me. Through dance I have found an escape from the world.” About Riven she remarked, “I personally really love how this dance expresses the emotions individuals feel and battle every day.” She also appreciated the opportunity to learn from an alum, exclaiming, “through working with Sarah Miller and Professor Chris Johnson I feel that I have grown extremely as a dancer!”

Hailing from Waunakee, Wisc., Kateri is majoring in Dance and Quantitative Economics. She says dance allows her relief from stress, adding “it forces me to not think about the other tasks and just live in the moment. Dancing also helps me stop overthinking and getting in my head too much.” She shares that her role in Riven challenges her to get out of her comfort zone, being more used to performing ballet, and upbeat modern/contemporary pieces. She says she is excited to join a more meaningful piece, and that the many emotional twists and turns in the story that help her further develop her range of characters. 

Both student dancers expressed how happy they are that they chose Beloit College.

“The environment at Beloit is amazing,” says Kateri, “I had Chris for modern my first semester freshman year but was unfortunately injured a few weeks in and unable to dance until just after Thanksgiving. Chris was extremely understanding and helped me find ideas to still participate within my limits while recovering. All of the dance faculty I have worked with are the same way. Chris’s motto is ‘no pain, no pain,’ and while extremely different from my previous dance environments, I now also try to follow that as much as possible.”

Emma also says she is thrilled with her choice, exclaiming, “When I “first toured Beloit College, I instantly fell in love with the campus! Plus, I also just couldn’t ignore the gut feeling I got to go to Beloit College… With the Beloit faculty and community, I have learned so much about dance and about myself as a dancer. I will always be extremely grateful I listened to my gut!”

August 31, 2023

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