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ETSU students learning steps with minor in dance

Rex Barber • Feb 13, 2012 at 10:39 PM

Danielle Mumpower knew early in life she wanted to perform.

She grew up watching Audrey Hepburn, Doris Day and Marilyn Monroe and knew she wanted to explore being an actress.

So, when she came to East Tennessee State University, she declared her major in theater. Then in fall 2010, a minor in dance was established by Cara Harker, an ETSU assistant professor in theater. The dance minor was the perfect complement to her career goals, Mumpower thought.

“I’ve pretty much known what I’ve wanted to be since I was three,” Mumpower said. “I just believe dance and theater are so relatable, it’s hard not to imagine them together.”

When she graduates in May, Mumpower will be one of the first students to have done so with a minor in dance.

This past week, Mumpower was among the students selected to represent undergraduate research at ETSU for legislators in Nashville for her project on the process of choreographing an original dance.

That dance she choreographed was called “The Answer,” and it was the result of about a year’s worth of development, all told.

The creation of “The Answer” began in fall 2009, when Mumpower took a dance class that focused on the process of choreography. In this course she created a short dance piece called “The Chase,” about a young woman searching for answers and love and happiness but never finds any of those things. The tempo of the dance is upbeat, with heavy African influences.

“I kind of pulled from all dance styles,” Mumpower said of her inspiration in creating the dance.

After the course, Mumpower was approached by Harker, who asked her to expand the piece and make it into a duet.

“And, of course, when you’re asked to do something in the theater world, you never turn it down,” Mumpower said.

The result was the “The Answer,” created in fall 2010, which was performed with fellow ETSU student Sam Floyd in March.

The audience loved it.

“I’ve never choreographed anything before, so that was a big step for me,” Mumpower said.

She said creating the four-minute piece and then performing it was a personal experience that got lots of positive feedback from audience members.

“The Answer” concludes “The Chase” by having Mumpower’s character find answers and support through her duet partner’s character, performed by Floyd.

The dance minor has also taught her self worth, Mumpower said.

“I think I understand myself much better as a person, an artist,” Mumpower said. “It broadened my horizon on the performance world.”

The dance minor is a 22-hour program that is an ideal complement for theater majors, though anyone can minor in dance, according to Harker. The dance minor offers 14 different classes. Prior to the minor, dance classes were first part of the kinesiology department at ETSU before being transferred to the communications department.

The research Mumpower did to choreograph “The Answer” is unique, which was why she was chosen to present her work in Nashville.

“I feel like my research is more about performance and the creative process,” Mumpower said. “When it comes to this final product it is performance-based ... as opposed to a thesis or something like that.

“The more I’ve sank into it, I think understanding the creative process is one of the hardest things anyone can do.”

That process is what she hoped to impart to state legislators this past week, she said.

“I’ve learned so much, and I would love to share it with other people,” Mumpower said. “I hope that they learn dance isn’t just ‘5, 6, 7, 8,’ performance isn’t just being a ham on stage. And I don’t doubt that they know that, I just hope that they take away the understanding of a process.”

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