Trio unites to represent SIUE at Midwest Dance Festival

Attending the Midwest Dance Festival was beyond leaps and bounds in the studios for theater and dance professor Kristin Best-Kinscherff and her three students.

Pictured above are two of three dance students, Brianna Biffignani (left) and Amber Hoene (right) of theater and dance professor Kristen Best-Kinscherff (center) who attended the Midwest Dance Festival. The two and Sterling Allen performed "Venom" choreographed by Best-Kinscherff at the festival held at Anderson University.

It involved landing the right moves in performance after a few rehearsals, representing SIUE’s dance program to other schools and becoming inspired with the idea to hold a similar festival at SIUE.

The festival took place Feb. 20-21 at Anderson University in Anderson, Ind. Sophomores Brianna Biffignani and Amber Hoene and junior Sterling Allen performed together a piece choreographed by Best-Kinscherff at the festival.

Best-Kinscherff said she thought the event was an amazing opportunity for the students to be able perform in a setting like that; and that it is a great recruitment opportunity for the university.

“For them to know Southern Illinois existed or the dance program and for them to see our dancers and how they are, it was definitely a positive experience and a lot of fun and we were really able to showcase what we do at SIUE,” Best-Kinscherff said.

The SIUE dance professor led two master classes in contemporary dance which she says is her favorite dance genre. Other workshops included classical ballet or dance forms such as leaps and turns taught by professors from Anderson University, Cincinnati Ballet Academy, Marygrove College, Purdue University and Ball State. Roughly 250 were in attendance.

In addition, two professional dance companies: Fort Wayne Ballet of Fort Wayne, Indiana, and Mosaic Dance Project of Dallas, Texas, performed during the concert program.

A wide range of participants including professors, college students and high school students attended Best-Kinscherff’s master class and others who held them.

Best-Kinscherff said some students from her master class approached her afterward to express how much they enjoyed it, and mentioned it was their first contemporary dance class.

She was also inspired by experiencing live musicians who provided percussion and keyboard music accompaniment for her dance sessions in the studio.

“If I could have the capability of musicians in class I would. It makes a world of difference,” Best-Kinscherff said. “It’s hard to describe but it’s amplified because the dancers feed off the energy of the musicians and the musicians feed off of what the dancers have been doing. It always creates some really special moments.”

Best-Kinscherff noted she has taught with live music before.

The dance professor’s three SIUE dancers performed her choreographed modern jazz piece titled “Venom.”

She said she drew inspiration for the piece from a Marvel comic character the “Black Widow,” a superhero and powerful woman who receives government injections that stop her from aging.

Best-Kinscherff said the piece involves the dancers in a series of movements where they strike poses in upright stances–arms pulled behind them.

Hoene said she enjoyed performing with the other two dancers.

“We worked hard on it for a while, and it all came together,” Hoene said. “It was really fun. The piece is really different and so the audience was really into it.”

Biffignani added that the audience did seem to really like it.

“Many of the others were ballets with classical techniques and ours was very different with contemporary jazz and had a very different feel to it—a modern upbeat feel,” she said.

Hoene said they envision holding a similar conference here at SIUE.

“I think we are really proud of our dance program and we would like everybody else in our area and region to know about our dance program. If we have one, we can invite some of those schools to come as well,” Hoene said.

Allen said she enjoyed performing and the sense of accomplishment it gave her.

“It gave us professional experience,” Allen said. “We threw it together in about three to four rehearsals and that’s not a lot of time at all to learn an entire piece and perfect it.”

She added that it felt natural to dance with them as their qualities match well together.

“The three of us work very well together,” Allen said.

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