by Kelsey Charlotte Hanstad
My name is Kelsey Charlotte Hanstad and I am a graduating senior Dance major ’14. In the fall of 2012 (my Junior year), I was preparing to leave for my study abroad experience at a performing arts conservatory called Accademia dell’arte in Arezzo, Italia. There was a guest artist/Alum by the name of Phillip Flickinger ’01 arriving to hold auditions for a group piece he was going to set for our celebratory 25th Spring Dance Concert. I spent the majority of my day (as most dancers do) in Kresge Studio. I went to both auditions just for the opportunity to take class with Flickinger who had not only graduated from Gustavus but had toured professionally with Diavolo and now teaches at Sacramento State University of California. At the end of the company class audition I confessed to Professor Michele Rusinko how embarrassingly unhappy I was to not be able to be selected to work with Flickinger. “… We can always make things happen… things can happen, you just have to ask for them” Michele reminded me. I clung to those words as I danced my way through Europe. After conservatory was finished for the semester I moved to Berlin with a physical Theatre troupe. The fire reignited then, reminding myself that when I returned, I had to make contact with the department and Flickinger. It is one thing as a student, to make plans but it is another to make sure my plans (in this case my DREAMS) become a reality. All I had to do was muster up the courage to ask “are we really going to make this happen?” And it did.
Plans were made for Flickinger to return to Gustavus during the January term while I was assistant choreographing the musical HAIR. We conducted creative research and collaborated on the creation of a solo work titled “Eventide” which appears in Grace: Gustavus Spring Dance Concert. At the end of a long week of dance and many bruises and sore muscles later, Flickinger and his assistant Danielle invited me to perform with their company Dancers Investigation Group/ D.I.G. at the Sacramento Dance Sampler and Unite at the Crocker Art Museum. Once again, the dedicated professors and staff of the theatre and dance department found a way to send me to Sacramento the first week of April for my first experience dancing professionally. During my time in Sacramento, I performed at two different venues experiencing my solo work as a solo and integrating it into a group work. As my time in California came to a close, I was invited to come back and work with the company later on this fall. I have made everlasting friendships and have connected with so many other artists along the way. Nothing fills me with more positivity about the future than knowing I can network my career not only being independent but more importantly learning to be inter-dependent with talented and wonderful people that surround me.
The Gustavus Theatre and Dance department has been my home; the dance company is my family. Yet, this experience has made me believe I can find a new place to dance and call home and a new inviting and creative family that I could work with for years to come. My path has taught me that open doors can be right at your nose and the best kind of people will invite you in to show you around. It fills me with great emotion to understand the love that my professors have for the success of their students. There is true belief that you can forge your own path no matter what it looks like, and there will be a support system that helped get you to your success. As my time dancing at Gustavus as an undergraduate is coming to a close, I know there are young and eager artists and students coming in the door and I would just like to say I have full faith in your dreams if you know what they are and you trust your gut. Always follow your heart and ask for what you want because that is when you will be most satisfied and fulfilled.