UMD student’s dance workshop highlights Japanese Butoh style

By Gabrielle Ryan
For The Diamondback

Katie Quinn, a sophomore at the University of Maryland, created a Butoh dance workshop inspired by the “disgustingly deliberate” 2020 Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony.

The dancers performed a Japanese-style dance theater called Butoh. The dance style focused on what creates discomfort and how to tell a story through deliberate movement, Quinn stated.

“I want people just to be able to be okay with being uncomfortable. That’s something I’m constantly working on myself, ”Quinn said.

The agricultural science and technology and theater major created the workshop as a part of her Arts Scholar capstone requirement, a project she must complete outside of the classroom environment during her fourth semester.

Students create a range of visual art and methods to produce them. Students organize and perform in concerts, write poetry, music and plays and develop arts-related service learning projects, Quinn’s advisor on the project, Heather Bremenstuhl, said.

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“Some students choose to work in a medium they are comfortable in while others use the capstone as a chance to try something completely outside of their comfort zone,” Bremenstuhl said in an email.

Quinn grew up as a competitive dancer doing ballet, tap, jazz, hip-hop and contemporary styles with Artistic Dance Company, which no longer exists. The company made dance feel like a sport, which made it difficult for Quinn to hold a passion for it, she stated.

She decided to leave the dance company when she reached middle school, which led her to her passion. Quinn discovered the student dance theater conservatory at Imagination Stage in Bethesda, Quinn stated.

“It was centered around having the students create their own choreography and their own show, which really interested me because I’ve never really had a say in how dance functions as an art or what I wanted to create,” Quinn stated.

The conservatory taught her the skills of communicating ideas and themes through movement. She has tried to find similar forms of dance and new ways to teach them, Quinn stated.

“While Katie is accustomed to the dance world, being on the instructor side was a newer experience for her,” Bremenstuhl stated.

The workshop, which Quinn named, “Butoh and Storytelling,” focuses on slow motion movement and muscle control, sophomore dance and theater major and fellow Arts Scholar Grace Guzman stated.

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This semester, the two choreographed the dances for the production of Heathers: The Musical, produced by the university’s student-run musical theater club 32 Bars. Quinn’s research for her workshop aided in creating realistic movement that dramaturgically made sense with the story for the musical, Guzman said.

“That’s something that she brings up a lot in the choreographic process, is different dance cultures and different dance styles that we can pull in,” Guzman stated. “Not just the stereotypical jazz, musical theater… [But] to create a really diverse dance environment. ”

Attendee Mimi Nguyen had always been fearful of dance and had never felt in tune with her movements, but Quinn’s workshop helped.

“In the workshop, there was one emphasis on more of feeling the movements, rather than the aesthetics of it,” the sophomore English and psychology major said.

She found the workshop reminded her of yoga and made her want to do it again.

“That’s one thing I learned, just being more mindful of how you feel at the moment,” Nguyen said.

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