“Inferno” ballet features six MSUM dancers


Looking for a little bit of hell? The James Sewell Ballet will be performing Dante’s “Inferno” next Saturday in Hansen Theatre.

The company is originally from Minneapolis, but is touring this show to different campuses and collaborating with local students.

MSUM has the honor of being the site of the premier of “Inferno,” with six student dancers involved in the production.

Lynea Behnke, theatre senior, was one of the students chosen to participate in the performance. She had decided to audition
because she remembered the company from a workshop last year, and the additional stage experience seemed like a good idea.

She added that Craig Ellingson, chair and director of theatre arts, is “big on promoting that kind of stuff.” She said he urged all of his dance classes to audition.

The audition process itself was fun for Behnke. She described the process as “a two-hour intensive on incorporating movement and acting into dance.”

“The dance studio was full of different people,” she said.

The auditions were not limited to theatre majors; the only requirement to audition was that the dancer be college aged.

Caleb Reich, fine arts freshman, is also one of the six who will be on stage as part of the “Inferno” cast.

“I didn’t have high hopes,” Reich said about landing a part in the show, “but it’s smart to put yourself out there sometimes.”

Ellingson said the collaboration is a “great opportunity” for the involved students. “The have been able to work with a world-class choreographer and a group of dancers that have been very responsive and nurturing,” he said. “It allows the students the ability to see the type of training they are receiving hereat MSUM and how it can be used in the professional world of performing arts.”

Behnke and Reich and the four other dancers have made two overnight trips to Minneapolis to attend workshops for the show.

Reich said he did not really know any of the other MSUM dancers too well before auditioning, but since they started traveling and rehearsing together “we’ve become like a group. It’s fun to make friends that way.”

Behnke said that apart from the two planned workshops in Minneapolis, most rehearsing is done on their own time through their own initiative.

Why would a professional ballet company bother with collaborating with college students? Ellingson says there are two reasons: “One, it allows the dance company to expand its numbers, literally; and two, it creates a unique performance experience.”

The MSUM dancers will only perform in the show held on campus. The audition process will be repeated with college students in each town where the show is performed. Behnke, Riech and Ellingson all urge students to attend the performance.

“Most people haven’t read Dante’s “Inferno”, so it is a great way to experience that literature,” Behnke said. “James Sewell turns it contemporary and prudent to society. It is visually explosive and cringe worthy.”

Reich added, “It is a different show from what you would see in this area. The same experience is not going to come up again.”

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