Rusinko Brings Gusties Together to Present Graywolves at Minnesota Fringe Festival

Posted on August 3rd, 2016 by

Michele Rusinko (r) and Michal Shahak are featured in Gray Wolves.

Michele Rusinko (r) and Michal Shahak (l) are featured in Gray Wolves. (Photo by Stan Waldhauser.)

Gustavus Adolphus College’s Department of Theatre and Dance will be well-represented at this year’s Minnesota Fringe Festival, which will include a project led by dance professor Michele Rusinko.

The performance, titled Graywolves – a gerotranscenDANCE, is a suite of original dances brought to life by an intergenerational cast. According to the program description, aging is often seen as a downhill slide into a world of loss and diminishment in our youth-glorifying culture. Yet, long-lived lives are filled with opportunities to grow stronger, wiser, and more compassionate. This resilient view of aging is at the core of Graywolves – a gerotranscenDANCE.

Rusinko choreographed the piece in collaboration with Israeli dance artist Michal Shahak. The two met 26 years ago at a conference in Northampton, Mass. “This was before I had even heard of email, and before Skype existed, but somehow when Michal returned to her home in Jerusalem, we stayed connected,” Rusinko recalls.

Over the years, Shahak has visited the United States several times and recently arrived for a month-long visit leading up to and throughout the Fringe Festival.

“The past two and a half weeks we have been working together in the studio almost every day. Digging deep. Exploring through movement and conversation the struggles and joys of this stage of our lives,” Rusinko said.

She’s excited to connect Shahak with the troupe of Gustavus alumni who will be performing the piece. Along with Rusinko, professor Melissa Rolnick (who also choreographed one of the work’s pieces) and former professor Jeffrey Peterson, there are six Gustavus graduates and one current student performing in Graywolves. Rusinko’s two nieces will also dance in the performance, which features dancers ranging in age from 18 to 61 years old.

Rusinko and Shahak rehearse in Gustavus's Kresge Dance Studio.

Rusinko and Shahak rehearse in Gustavus’s Kresge Dance Studio.

“Working on this concert has been rich and wonderful. It has been incredibly rewarding to work with so many alumni dancers and see how they still maintain the skills they learned as part of the Gustavus dance program. I am not speaking of just the physical dance skills, I am speaking of their willingness to explore deeply, be present, and to be very vulnerable on stage,” Rusinko said.

“The past few years I have studied resiliency in many of its manifestations. At the core of resiliency is the realization that we make thousands of choices every day,” she continued. “These choices are large and small, and every one gives us an opportunity to decide how we want to respond to that moment of our life. Do we respond with kindness and compassion? Or do we lash out with anger and judgement? I believe it is the accumulation of all these small choices that determine if we grow wiser or simply grown older.”

The Minnesota Fringe Festival runs from August 4-14 at venues across the Twin Cities and includes comedy, dance, drama, musical theatre, and experimental theatre performances. Performances of Graywolves will take place August 4, 6, 7, 11, and 13. Learn more, get tickets, and reserve your place at the show online.


Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication JJ Akin


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