UM Dance Alumnus Returns as Guest Artist for ‘Dance in Concert’

March 02, 2018

Gerke from "Dance in Concert 2016" (Terry Cyr Photography)MISSOULA – The University of Montana welcomes back one of its own as a guest choreographer for the School of Theatre & Dance’s March production of “Dance in Concert.”

Missoula-area native Brian Gerke, who earned his bachelor’s degree from UM in 2016, choreographed the dance piece “On Jasper’s Farm,” and it will premiere during the concert, which takes the stage at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, March 8-10, and 2 p.m. Saturday, March 10, in the Montana Theatre in UM’s Performing Arts and Radio/TV Center.

Gerke began dancing in the living room of his parents’ house in Lolo. After graduating from Loyola Sacred Heart High School, unsure of his academic interests, yet supported by a full-ride scholarship to any university in Montana, his mentor Syann Stevens encouraged him to give dance a try. However, he was most inspired to begin his formal training at UM after seeing Janet Jackson’s “All For You” tour in the summer of 2001 – a graduation present from his brother. Gerke still loves to watch and learn from pop dance videos.

Gerke performed with Mo-Trans Dance and the Headwater Dance Company as a UM student under the direction of Amy Ragsdale and Karen Kaufmann, the producer of “Dance in Concert.”

 Midway through earning his degree in dance at UM, Gerke realized he wanted to intensify his focus on dance, so he left Missoula for New York City during his junior year, where he met his “soul sister” and future collaborator, Steinunn Ketilsdottir.

Their friendship and artistic collaboration eventually led Gerke to Reykjavik, Iceland, where he established an internationally known touring company with Ketilsdottir and became the director of modern dance at the National Ballet Academy of Iceland, a guest professor at the Icelandic Arts University and a featured and award-winning soloist at the National Dance Company of Iceland.

Gerke is the only American to have earned the Icelandic Performing Arts Award for Dance Performer of the Year.

UM dance faculty invited Gerke back to Missoula to serve as a guest artist from 2011 to 2012, during which he choreographed “MEAT,” an original dance piece performed by 11 UM dancers. “MEAT” was adjudicated in the Northwest Regional Conference of the American College Dance Festival Association and selected as one of the pieces to be performed by UM dancers at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., at the National ACDFA Gala Concert in June 2012.

Gerke continued to perform and choreograph internationally until he left Europe in 2015 to continue his studies in dance, first at UM and currently as a master’s student at the University of Utah. Most recently, he became a Certified Laban/Barteneiff Movement Analyst and a Registered International Somatic Movement Educator through the Integrated Movement Studies program.

Over the past year, Gerke has returned to Missoula three times to choreograph “On Jasper’s Farm” and will represent UM at the 2018 Northwest Regional Conference of the re-named American College Dance Association adjudicated concert in Boulder, Colorado, during spring break.

General admission tickets to “Dance in Concert” cost $20, while senior and student tickets cost $16. Admission for children ages 12 and under is $10. Tickets are available at the UMArts Box Office at 406-243-4581 from noon to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday or online at http://www.umt.edu/umarts/theatredance/.

For more information, call Kaufmann at 406-243-2870 or email karen.kaufmann@umontana.edu. A complete schedule of UM School of Theatre & Dance productions for the 2017-18 academic year is online at http://www.umt.edu/umarts/theatredance/Season/17-18-season.php.

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Contact: Karen Kaufmann, dance professor, UM School of Theatre & Dance, 406-243-2870, karen.kaufmann@umontana.edu.