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Released April 23, 2004

By Christopher Mapp

HATTIESBURG -- Long-distance runners often talk of the "runner's high," that feeling of euphoria the body gets when it's been performing at its peak for a length of time.

At the American College Dance Festival last month, University of Southern Mississippi senior Julie Tuner experienced what could be called a "dancer's high."

After rehearsing for eight months on an original piece choreographed by fellow student Emily Maurer, Turner performed it for a trio of noted dance judges. Turner's interpretation of Maurer's work, called "Come into View," impressed the trio enough to include it in the Gala Concert, which featured the 10 best dances of the 40 judged during the four-day festival in Atlanta.

"Since I'd been doing this particular piece for eight months, it's not uncommon for a dancer to feel stale after that length of time. But that was not the case for me," Turner said. "I felt like I was performing it for the first time."

Turner said because she trained so long, she really didn't have to think about the steps. "My body just knew them. I escaped into my own little world for six minutes, and when I was done, my peers began clapping and screaming for me. I felt so relaxed."

Held annually, the prestigious American College Dance Festival features budding professional dance students from seven Southeastern states. Faculty members work with students from schools in Florida, Kentucky, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, North Carolina, and Mississippi. During the four-day event, students also take master classes and hold informal concerts and show dances.

"It's a great opportunity to network and see what other schools are doing," said Stacy Reischman, director of the Southern Miss dance department.

Writing anonymously, judges said of the Southern Miss duo that the choreographer, Maurer, "found her voice" and Turner's execution of the original piece was an obvious "performance milestone."

Turner said one of the judges, Claire Porter, even interpreted her movements in ways she never considered.

"She spoke about the dance and my gestures representing the world. She was making a reference to the way I held my hands often throughout the dance.

"I had never thought of myself as 'holding the world,' but when the judge said it, then it made perfect sense to me," Turner said.

Reischman said Southern Miss took 25 dance students to the festival, but only two dances were selected for competition.

"The dances we choose to represent (Southern Miss) are typically ones that we think showcase our finest dances and most innovative choreographic agendas," she said.

The dance was half of Maurer's senior project, with the second half being a written thesis.

Turner said she was confident entering the judging phase of the festival because Maurer's choreography was so strong. "I believe Emily is an amazing artist with very fresh and interesting ideas about modern dance," Turner said.


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April 27, 2004 10:14 AM