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Image: Lynn Lane

As the fall semester draws its curtains on the University of Houston’s School of Dance & Theater, the department shines the spotlight on aspiring dance artists in its annual Emerging Choreographers Showcase on Monday, Dec. 4 and Tuesday, Dec. 5 at UH’s Jose Quintero Lab Theatre.

With guidance from UH’s dance faculty, students produce, stage and choreograph the entire show, which features original dance arrangements from 13 students this semester.

“There’s a high standard to put on a professional show,” says Toni Valle, a faculty coordinator of the Choreographers Showcase. “They’re students, but we don’t cut them any slack.”

Valle, who teaches dance production and PR marketing, urges the collegiate participants—whether they are on stage or working behind the scenes—to apply the classroom skills they acquired from UH’s dance curriculum to this elevated, professional setting. The collaborative, interactive environment also teaches students how to work together and coordinate a production, which is crucial for a career in the performing arts.

“Our goal is to open up the students to professional development that they can take to the arts world and the business world, or wherever they might go,” Valle explains. “They might dance for a while, but we want to develop dancers with a lot of other skills, too.”

The choreographers already got a sneak peek of the dance industry’s exceptional demands during the showcase’s selective auditions. The vetting process, which Valle calls “Friday afternoon dance,” gave students an opportunity to put their talents on display. They began “shaping their process all the way through” for several weeks; by the third round, the instructors selected the choreographers.

“It is not intimidating to produce a show with other students because we are all learning and growing through this process together,” says Kara Stenz, 23, a senior dance student and choreographer. “We are all in the same boat!”

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Image: Lynn Lane

Jasmine Crutch, 21, found the encouragement and constructive feedback from faculty incredibly beneficial, especially from Becky Valls, her mentor and Senior Projects professor.

“She equipped me with the right tools in order to be successful in the audition process,” the senior dance major says. “There were many nights I wanted to give up, but my love for dance just wouldn’t let me.”

For both Crutch and Stenz, the opportunity to collaborate with faculty and their fellow peers is an incredibly valuable springboard into their future careers. Upon graduation, they plan on furthering their performing credentials by obtaining teaching degrees and become dance educators.

“I believe [that] when you give kids the right tools to grow as an artist, they can find their own artistic voice and add creativity and beauty to the world,” Stenz explains. 

Dec 4 at 12 and 7:30; Dec 5 at 7:30. $10­–20. Jose Quintero Theatre, 3351 Cullen Blvd. 713-743-2929. uh.edu