Dance guest artist brings humor and play


Allison Bair, Staff Writer

Grand Valley State University’s Dance Program recently hosted their second guest artist of the semester, offering dance students the chance to learn from an outside choreographer. This program aims to expose students to new ideas, step out of their comfort zone and learn from working professionals. 

The most recent guest artist, Deborah Lohse, finished a week-long residency that taught dancers unique creative methods. She focused on blending dancing and acting and shared her teaching philosophy, pushing students to find new aspects within themselves to guide their work as artists.  

Lohse is a comedian, professional dancer, actor and ex-circus clown who resides in New York. During her time at GVSU, she taught ballet classes, a choreography class and set a piece for the dance program’s Fall Concert in December.  

Lohse encouraged the students to come up with their own “alter-egos,” an active persona separate from the dancer’s everyday self to explore new stories, movements and to take on new challenges. This is a practice she uses in her own life with her own alter-ego named TruDee. She has dancers use this persona as a channel to act as a new character and achieve goals they otherwise would have felt much less comfortable doing.

“We started the class with 12 students and by the end, there were 24,” Lohse said. “Everyone had their own fun side character and the students saw parts of their peers they had never seen before.” 

Junior dance major Carly O’Donodue had the opportunity to take a class from Lohse and said that the experience expanded her skillset.

“It definitely got me out of my comfort zone,” O’Donohue said. “There was a lot of improv and acting skills we learned as well.”

Not only does Lohse work to tie in joy and fun into her choreography, but she uses it as a way of life. 

For Lohse’s dance piece, she choreographed a story that started as an idea and developed it to fit the individual students. The performance tells the story of two dreamers amongst a group of clowns who lose their way. Through the chaos, the dreamers bring everyone else back to reality. Lohse said she hopes to show the audience that life shouldn’t be taken too seriously or else there will be widespread panic.

“I think discipline is too harsh of a word for when we do something wrong because it makes us feel negatively,” Lohse said. “Life shouldn’t be taken seriously. We should meet our mistakes with laughter and forgiveness and bounce back with joy.”

Students said that Lohse brought a light and positive attitude to the rehearsal process. 

The teaching style was very similar to the vibe of the piece,” senior dance major Claire Berndt said. “Lohse is such an uplifting, free-spirited individual. She created a space that allowed us to step out of our comfort zones. The room was full of silliness and laughs.”

Lohse said that she truly loved working with everyone and their willingness to open their minds to new techniques. Both O’Donohue and Berndt said that Lohse’s lessons and joyful approach to problems will follow them throughout their career and the rest of their lives.