Not many colleges and universities offer a student-led dance concert that features diverse styles of dance. Even further, not many schools produce dance concerts that consist of dances all choreographed and designed by the organization’s own students. Northwestern does and it’s called RUSH, the annual student-led and student-produced celebration that spans across all of campus and brings students of all backgrounds together for a process producing fresh choreography and new friendships.
The shows will be in the Proscenium Theatre, Thursday, March 19 and Friday, March 20 at 7:00 p.m. and 9:30 p.m., and Saturday, March 21 at 4:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.
RUSH was first produced in February 2004. One of the founders of RUSH, NW alum Becky Donahue, came to work for the college as the theatre department secretary this academic year. She and a friend were students at NW when they banded together to create the concert known today.
“When we were first coming up with the name, we wanted to think of something that evoked movement,” Donahue said. “That led to the thought of adrenaline, then adrenaline rush, and we ended up with the name RUSH.”
Donahue had grown up with a passion for dancing, taking classes and growing her love for it up through college. Donahue and her friend found a faculty advisor, the role that she now plays, and got to work as producer and artistic director of the program.
“When you look around northwest Iowa and surrounding areas, you see a lot of the same dance styles. However, Northwestern brings in people of different backgrounds, interests and talents, and we felt like that was being ignored to a point,” Donahue said.
It wasn’t the easiest beginning, however. Not yet knowing the time balance RUSH now requires, students were sacrificing doing academic work to practice for RUSH. Donahue and her friend had some struggles assuming authority as students producing a full-fledged dance concert. Now, Donahue works in an advisory role with heatre professor Drew Schmidt overseeing the technical aspects and the student lighting designs of the production.
There is something a little different about RUSH this year. Tony Wilder, a 2009 alumnus, will be doing a solo dance performance within the Friday and Saturday shows of RUSH and teaching a workshop the following Sunday, March 22, from 1:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. in the theater. Wilder is a gym and dance teacher from Chicago, Illinois.
Including Wilder’s performance, there are 12 dances for students to enjoy in this year’s celebration. There are also exciting things about the production that happen annually. One of those is simply the sharing of dance with people of all abilities.
“Pop culture dance is so cutthroat,” Donahue said. “RUSH is about celebrating anyone who wants to work at and try something new. It’s also not just about what is popular. You see all sorts of styles, all genuinely created. One of the dances this year is a clogging, and who’s seen a clogging dance before?”
Donahue isn’t the only one excited for RUSH. Jessica Rogers, a senior with a background in dance, has choreographed and danced in RUSH for three years now. She always loves seeing it all put together.
“Last year my co-choreographer Kiley Meeder and I were squealing and jumping up in down when we first saw the entire routine,” said Rogers. “We were so proud of and blown away by our dancers.”
Shonna Ritz, a sophomore, is participating in RUSH for the first time and is enjoying getting to know a new dance and new people dancing alongside her. Even though Ritz says she has little prior experience, she’s still had a blast throughout the process.
Schuyler Sterk, a junior, participated the prior two years.
“It’s fun to pretend I’m good at dancing for a while,” Sterk said.
She loves getting to meet and work with new people, and the low time commitment compared to other student involvements.
“It’s simultaneously low-key and super extra,” Sterk said.
She also highlighted that RUSH is more fun with audience support.
“People in the audience will get hype and cheer when they see a friend onstage.” Sterk said.