Choreographer Tiana Buschmann, front, practices with her dance group Thursday night during rehearsal at Northwest Ballet Studio. The group will perform the "It Was All In Your Mind" piece March 5 to 7 during the annual Dance Showcase at Steamboat Springs High School.

Photo by Matt Stensland

Choreographer Tiana Buschmann, front, practices with her dance group Thursday night during rehearsal at Northwest Ballet Studio. The group will perform the "It Was All In Your Mind" piece March 5 to 7 during the annual Dance Showcase at Steamboat Springs High School.

Steamboat Dance Theatre choreographers take pieces from start to finish

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Past Event

37th annual Steamboat Springs Dance Theatre Concert

  • Thursday, March 5, 2009, 7 p.m.
  • Steamboat Springs High School, 45 Maple St., Steamboat Springs
  • Not available / $12 - $20

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For more information about the Steamboat Dance Theatre, go to www.steamboatdanc...>

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Choreographer Tiana Buschmann gives feedback to her dance group during their Thursday practice.

Tiana Buschmann's biggest challenge as a choreographer: "The dancers."

Tiana Buschmann's favorite thing about being a choreographer: "Being with my dancers."

"It's a love-hate relationship," Buschmann said, explaining the challenges that come with creating and rehearsing a piece for the 37th annual Steamboat Dance Theatre Concert.

In the show - which opens at 7 p.m. Thursday in the Steamboat Springs High School auditorium - Buschmann's hip-hop piece will join 17 others. For the past five-plus months, about 80 dancers and choreographers have rehearsed weekly to put together original pieces in styles including jazz, African, modern, hip-hop, lyrical, tap and swing.

The time commitment is huge - Buschmann said she spends at least an hour choreographing for each hour of rehearsal. By that measure, she's spent at least 24 hours planning "It Was All In Your Mind," a hip-hop piece set to music by Linkin Park and Wade Robson. Buschmann describes the style not as "music video, booty-shaking hip-hop," but as "cleaner and more theatrical in a way."

On Thursday evening at Northwest Ballet Studio, Buschmann was getting ready to lead her last group rehearsal for the piece, which she has choreographed in chunks since the Dance Theatre held open auditions in September. The group has made a lot of progress since then, said dancer Audrey Alessi.

"Seeing the final product of what we've done the entire time, it's like, 'Wow,'" Alessi said.

"I remember when we learned those first three moves, and you're like, 'What is my body doing?' Just going from that to the three minutes on stage" is gratifying, she said.

Choreography from a vision

Dance Theatre choreographers meet in the early fall to propose pieces and get an idea of the diversity in the concert program. The company holds auditions in September, and each choreographer teaches a set of steps and chooses dancers.

Some - such as swing dance instructor Jenny Meier - come to auditions with most of their piece ready to go on stage.

Others - Buschmann included - need to see their dancers before the piece can come together.

"I'm an oddball choreographer," Buschmann said, explaining her concepts don't really happen until she has dancers to choreograph them on. If she has an amazing gymnast to work with, or a jazz dancer or a break-dancer, she's going to incorporate that into the piece. The goal is to make the dancers look as good as possible.

"The reason that I choreograph is so that I can see my vision on someone else," Buschmann said.

Each choreographer starts his or her process differently. Meier, who co-choreographed a swing piece and is dancing in Buschmann's hip-hop number, said she starts with the desired result.

"You start with what you want to leave the audience feeling or what mood you're going for and how you want people to be affected," Meier said.

Freedom of expression

Teaching a three-minute dance piece to eight people isn't without its difficulties.

"Everybody learns differently, and you have to accommodate all those different learning styles in one hour," Buschmann said. That can involve taking one dancer aside to teach them a section. Or, in Buschmann's case, doing a little yelling.

"You know my rehearsal won't be boring," she said.

But after all that, spending time with her dancers is what made Buschmann want to choreograph a piece for her second year in a row.

"You definitely can let loose, more than anyone would ever expect you to otherwise," Buschmann said. "Because that's what it is. It's a freedom of expression, a form of expression."

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