Seven questions with Geneseo Dance Ensemble member Emily Ellmann.

As the Geneseo Dance Ensemble celebrates its 50th anniversary this April, Emily Ellmann ’18 has found joy practicing and performing with the group since her freshman year. The ensemble, she says, has inspired her to take new challenges, and nurtured her creative side.
This year, Ellmann has showcased her own choreography and is collaborating with Geneseo Dance Ensemble Director and Professor of Dance Studies Jonette Lancos and alumni guest artists on pieces for the “Dancing Past to Present: Celebrating Fifty Years” event. In the half of a century of the ensemble, there have been more than 50 guest artists who have collaborated and performed with, and mentored students, including Mark Broomfield ’94, who is now the group’s assistant director. Other artists have included Norwood Pennewell ’79 of Garth Fagan Dance. Students — from diverse majors — also create their own choreography, direct and perform.

Ellmann, a biology major with a minor in dance, will attend the University at Buffalo’s Jacob’s School of Medicine this fall. She wants to become a doctor; maybe a primary care physician or focus in preventative care.

We are a liberal arts college and I’m really glad that I am able to study a natural science and a fine art,” she says. “It has made me a more well-rounded person.”

Q: You’re majoring in biology and want to become a doctor, and you are also deeply dedicated to dance. How do those interests complement each other?

A: In dance, there is a holistic approach to health that includes taking care of your body, spirit and mind. We also build overall strength and flexibility, which also teaches us about preventing injuries. There is a balance of the body and the mind.

Q: How has dance helped you grow as a person and student?

A: I am not naturally creative, but being in dance has forced me to develop my creativity. It has also made me more open-minded. Now I approach situations without preconceived notions and try to come up with ideas to solve problems. It has also taught me discipline.

Q: You presented your choreographed work, “Harmony of Self,” directing dancers from the ensemble last fall. Tell us more about it.

A: The choreography is unique because I asked my dancers to give me movements that they feel tells their story related to self-image. I then put their movements and stories together for a final piece. It has been a healing process, as we all talk about these feelings about our ideal self and self-image. It’s a universal challenge we all go through — the balance we want to achieve between who we want to be, how we want others to see us, and the reality of how we see ourselves.

Q: How does working so closely with other students on a common goal build a sense of community?

A: I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and working with so many dancers over the years and many of them have become my best friends. We share a special bond because dance requires so much time, energy and dedication. We face the same challenges, we feel the same satisfaction, and we all love dance.

Q: What inspires you about dance?

A: Dance is a unique art form because unlike painting or sculpting, at the end of the day, there is no enduring product to show for all your efforts. Dance happens in the moment and in front of an audience, and then it’s over. We have to be present and connect with people.

Q: How does it feel when you perform for an audience?

A: It is easy to get bogged down in the details of the movement during practice. On stage, with costumes and lighting and the movement that you have practiced enough that it has become second nature — I am living the dance. I am living its concept and purpose, with fellow dancers. It’s such an emotional connection, I get chills.

Q: There is a tradition of accomplished alumni dancers — returning to Geneseo to work with students as guest artists. What is it like to work with renown tap dancer Alexander MacDonald ’08 and alumna Kylee Pike Fassler ’04, among others?

A: It’s truly an honor. Working with guest artists and alumni guest artists is an opportunity for current dance students to ask questions of dance professionals, and receive guidance in performance and career moves. We can also expand our dance vocabulary and repertoire, and gain new perspectives.