Getting to Know Dancer Mica Russo

Mica is a great example of the diversity present within our group. She is a Product Design major at the University of Oregon but she has been dancing all her life. This will be Mica’s first time attending the American College Dance Festival.

1. Where are you from originally?

I was born in Chico, California, but I’m an Oregonian with exception to those first three months of my life. I grew up in Elmira, which is still pretty close to Eugene. Oregon has always been my home.

2. What is your major or focus of study and what led you to decide on it?

My major is Product Design, which combines my love for creativity and functionality. Before coming to the UO, I enjoyed making things – crafting, you could say. The Product Design program has shown me how to apply this creative drive to usable objects. The possibilities to redesign or invent better products is my way of helping improve the world. I’m most interested in social-impact or humanitarian design, which seeks to solve social issues in subjects like education and health through innovative products.

3. When did you start dancing and how did you decide to “stick with it”?

Well, it’s a bit cliche to say I’ve been dancing all my life, but I honestly can’t remember a time when I wasn’t committed to dance. When I was younger, my mother would kindly chauffeur me to town for dance class each day, and I’d do my homework in the car, and my weekends were spent tech-ing and performing. Dance has been an integral part of my life, both as movement and as community. My dedication to it will continue throughout my life, because it challenges me while giving me release, and it brings me so much joy.

4. Give a little bit of info about your dance background.

The Eugene dance community is very dear to me, and I’ve been honored to dance with many of the local companies. I danced modern and tumbled with the EDGE for 16 years: that studio on Harris Street is my second home, and Geni Morrow is my mentor, friend, and hero. Meanwhile, I have learned hip hop and jazz for 10 years from the Greats of Eugene – Lisa Gillam and Karl Mundt at Dance Factory, who taught me energy and precision – Cindy Zreliak at ZAPP who challenged me to be hard-core and expressive – and Eileen King and King’s Krew, with whom I’m still dancing: I spend hours a week in the studio with my closest friends, all dancing our very hardest. Finally, the Dance Department at the University has been an incredible key to exploring my own movement and expression, with some of the sweetest and most talented dancers I’ve had the pleasure of working with. Dance Oregon is pushing me to test the waters as an artist, and to comprehend a deeper level of modern dance.

5. What does ACDFA and Dance Oregon mean to you?

The community of dancers and people in Dance Oregon is inspirational and beautiful! What a gift to all do what we love, together, and what an opportunity for us to travel and meet more people who share our passions! ACDFA seems like an indescribable gathering of dance that will teach us many things, and expose us to many individual stories and experiences with dance as the connecting root.

You can help fund our trip to the American College Dance Festival at our Kickstarter site:
http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/danceoregon/help-dance-oregon-go-to-the-american-college-dance

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Getting to Know Dancer Kim Ames

We are so excited that Dance Oregon is reaching the younger of dancers at the University of Oregon. Meet sophomore dance major Kim Ames who will be attending the American College Dance Festival with us this year!

1. Where are you from originally?

I was born and raised in the Eugene/Springfield area, and still absolutely love it here.

2. What is your major or focus of study and what led you to decide on it? 

My major is dance. Dancing has always been my passion. I have always wanted to open my own dance studio, but I also wanted to explore dance more on a professional level. I am loving everything so far, and I am glad I continued my exploration further at the UO. I love to inspire and be inspired by my peers and other dancers in the community. It is great to be a part of Dance Oregon because I get to be around other people who love to dance all day. I have learned SO much already from my professors, graduate students and peers-and I am only a Sophomore!

3. When did you start dancing and how did you decide to “stick with it”? 

When I was three years old I pointed out a dance studio to my mom and said, “I want to go there.” From there she enrolled me in classes, and I was hooked. During my middle school years, many of my classmates stopped taking classes for sports and other activities, but I wanted to dance. I never decided to stick with it, it is like embedded in my DNA or something. It’s almost like dance chose me.

4. Give a little bit of info about your dance background. 

I danced locally in Eugene for a studio called ZAPP, run by a UO alumni named Cindy Zreliak. When I was little I took a lot of hip-hop, tap, swing, lyrical, and jazz. When I was 13, I was old enough to be a part of their smaller group of dancers that perform around the world and locally at the Hult Center. Between ages 13 and 18 I performed with the company in Disneyland, Disneyworld, Seattle, Hawaii, and numerous times at the Hult Center. One of my favorite productions I did every year was Dance for a Reason, because there are so many local dance groups involved that contribute to a fantastic performance. There were times we would reherse on Sundays for 7 hours for these performances. I also had dance practice at 6 a.m. on Tuesdays every week, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

5. What does ACDFA and Dance Oregon mean to you? 

The American College Dance Festival is such an exciting idea to me. I have never been before, but I am a firm believer in cross training. I am really looking forward to taking workshops from professors from other Universities. There is so much that I will be able to learn and take from it I’m sure. I am also looking forward to watching the performances, and what other Universities have been working on. The University of Oregon has provided me with a new style of dance that I haven’t done before-Modern Dance. I had heard little of it before coming to UO. It is addicting. I love how real it is, and the freedom for expression within it. Although there is structure, there is so much wiggle room. One of my favorite dance styles is hip-hop, so freedom of expression in dance is important to me. My professors are all so different, and I appreciate that because life is never the same and always exciting here.

Getting to Know Our Treasurer: Linnea Birdwell

This is the first of a series that we will be posting so that our supporters can get to know the students involved in Dance Oregon. The first student profile is all about our treasurer Linnea Birdwell. Read on to learn more about her!

1. Where are you from originally?

I was born in Los Angeles, but have lived in Corvallis, OR for most of my life.

2. What is your major and what led you to decide on it?

I came to the University of Oregon with the intention of being a dance major, and I never looked back once I got here.

2. When did you start dancing and how did you decide to “stick with it”?

I first started doing Modern Dance after I saw a show that involved dancing when I was 9. It looked like fun, so I joined a local Modern studio specializing in Graham technique and found that it was something that I never wanted to stop doing. I never had an epiphany moment were I was suddenly struck with the idea of being a dancer; as soon as I started dancing I knew I could never stop, and the decision to follow my dreams of becoming a professional dancer was just a logical progression in my exploration of dance.

3. Give a little bit of info about your dance background:

In high-school I mainly trained in the Graham technique, and it wasn’t until I came to the University of Oregon that I started expanding my dance education with Ballet, Jazz, African, and Hip-hop. Here at the U of O, I have performed in numerous faculty and student works since my freshman year, and was a recipient of the Lotta Carll Scholarship for 2010-2011 as well as 2011-2012. In 2011 I attended my first American College Dance Festival in Idaho, performing in Brad Garner’s “Pages Missing,” selected through adjudication for the finale performance. I will once again be performing at the ACDF in Wisconsin this year in Holly Johnston’s new work “Prelude to a Secret,” as well as in Julia Vickers’ “Two Half Hitches.” This past summer I was lucky enough to attend and perform at Bates Dance Festival in Lewiston, Maine, and gained invaluable knowledge from the many professions there. I plan to continue to explore my love for teaching and outreach through dance after graduating in 2013, and one day I hope to join a professional dance company.

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