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02/16/2013

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Alyssa Kunkle

I found it really intriguing that Stephen Koester, a man who never intended on dancing as a career, has fallen in love with the art and dedicated a good portion of his life to it. It was actually seems by fault that he ended up attending the Nancy Hauser summer workshop which eventually lead to a career with this company. Dancing with this company had led to many more opportunities that would not have appeared if not for Koester’s seeming inability to escape the dance world. After years in the field and even years of running his own company with his partner Terry Creach, Koester had thought he lost most of passion for the art, he respected so much. After “quitting dance for good” Koester eventually returned to teaching which he has been doing since. The background of Koester is very fascinating for the mere fact that I too have come to various points in my short lived career where I was convinced was the end, but have always somehow fell right back in love with dancing. Other than the background of Koester I found a lot of his advice interesting and applicable to my life as a collegiate dancer. A note that really hit close to home was the idea that if you are truly driven to be a part of the dance world, you will find a way to make it happen. I think that this is really important for me to remember especially at this time, since I am constantly looking at myself and saying “I am not good enough”. However, this is mainly due to the fact that I am my own worst critic and instead of picking out parts of my dancing that are positive and will land me a job in the field, I am constantly just questioning why I do not look like other people. “Be willing to do or try anything in dance.” This quote from Koester is something that I pride myself on ever day both in technique class and in other parts of my life as well. I try to be the most malleable dancer while adapting to all styles and still bringing me and my passion to the table. Though I understand why we put such an emphasis on cross training and making our whole body health better, when Koester said we learn how to dance by dancing, I could not agree more. Sometimes I feel that as dancers we do not really know exactly how to cross train in order to get the benefit in our dancing. Finally, advocating of the art is something that Koester brought up that I would agree is lacking in the new generation of dancers. It is very important that as the artists we are the ones who are teaching the general public, who today seemed to be influenced by television shows and the media and not a true understanding. To end this I would be interested to know if Koester was ever just as passionate about psychology and/or architecture and have ever regretted not following through with either of these things?

Rachel Bunting


It was obviously a great fortune that Stephen Koester fell upon dance rather incidentally and discovered what had to be an innate talent (and love) for it. As Koester states, he realized that he “was never going to be a great architect” and so dance, which was originally just a superficial enjoyment, later transformed to a deeply connected passion. I found his statement regarding architecture to be interesting because by the time his company (Creach/Koester) had been successful for 15+ years, he began to feel disconnected to it, and so he “quit dance for good”. Yet after this year-long hiatus, he returned to dancing both for a career and for himself. There was less care about success for failure, and his own passions are what drove him back to the world in which he was unexpectedly thrown into. This got me thinking back to his long-lost strives for a career in architecture. At the latter point of his involvement with the Creach/Koester Company, he may have felt as if he would never again be a great choreographer- stating that the work that was being produced lacked the originality and drive it had before. Just like with architecture, this “failure” seemed to be the end of the road. But unlike architecture, dance never fully left Koester’s system. There was a reason that his love for it was re-kindled, it was meant to be that he not stop dancing, but when he left architecture behind, he never looked back. My point here is that we are all already in love with dance- we work hard and strive for it, but while we are still young and unsure, you never know where it could take you or when you could realize that what you want has changed. Koester’s story shows us that life can go in many different directions- perhaps now I have dreams of dancing in musicals, but until I get there I’ll never know if I could have an “architecture moment” and go in a different direction. No matter what, Koester reassures us that if we are truly driven, we will find a way to make a career in dance happen. I love this mentality and completely agree. Even in this world where dance is barely defined, highly expensive, and full of near-impossible expectation, Koester encourages us to simply do what we love and create work, despite having a company or not. Even though standards for dance in both ballet and modern are immensely intensified even from 30 years ago, I think that it’s a good idea to follow this advice…Don’t worry about how you will be received if you are at all, but create work and dance if you are passionate about it, because someone somewhere out there will notice that. I, too get caught up in comparing myself to other dancers in our classes, and constantly putting myself down and reminding myself how difficult it is to be accepted in this field. Koester’s words do give me some inspiration to let all of that baggage go and just dance. As of now, I feel that I am, in fact “afraid of dance” and forget about having fun with it most of the time, but reading that Koester says he looks for someone who does show enjoyment, loses themselves in the moment, and evokes creativity as well as good technique is encouraging- it’s not all about having the best body or turnout or extensions. Koester took a fairly bumpy road to get to where he is today; if I had a question for him it would be how did it not worry you to not have a life plan all set out? I personally feel apprehension for a future that is uncertain, how can one get passed these fears and enjoy the moment?

Abigail Farina

I really enjoyed reading Stephen Koester’s profile. I found it interesting that his initial plan in college was studying architecture and psychology, with no intention of working in the dance field. The fact that the architecture internship did not work out and so he just happened to take a dance workshop was quite surprising. It lead him to work with Nancy Hauser, eventually this grew into him dancing for her company. I think it is refreshing to see that good things can come out of what you least expect and that nothing is unobtainable if you continue to explore all of your options. I question I have for him would be: Did you ever doubt yourself, especially when you decided to really pursue dance professionally, leaving behind architecture? I have doubts now and I am still in college. It is nice to read about someone who got their start in dance a little bit later than most, but was still able to have an extremely successful career in dance. After touring with the Nancy Hauser Dance Company he then moved to NYC and danced in the Jamie Cunningham Dance Company. Through this company, he became friends with a member, Terry Creach, and they formed their own company. It sounds like the company Creach/Koester was influential to partnering work and certainly paved the way for more men partnering as well as all male companies. Stephen seems to really listen to his instincts and gives his whole heart to whatever project, or dance piece he was working on. I was surprised when I read that he decided to quit dance for good. Most dancers I read about never think about quitting but I must say I think that his reason for wanting to quit was quite commendable. He explains in his profile that he was no longer fully committed to his company and respected dance way too much to not give it his all. H ended up realizing he was not finished with dance and continued to dance and teach by becoming a faculty member at University of Utah. It is nice to hear that you can come back to dance, or whatever you are passionate about, when you feel up for it and your view on dance can change and evolve. I know how I viewed dance prior to having had three semesters at a collegiate level and how I view dance now are through two completely different perspectives. Your dance experiences shape the type of dancer, artist, teacher and choreographer you are. Through Stephens different dance experiences, his relationship with dance evolved and grew into a deeper connection. His advice was genuine and I will definitely keep it it mind. He encourages young dancers to work, without worrying about being successful, because only through good work can you get noticed. If you are determined and hard-working, you will find a way to make it happen. I did not agree fully with his advice on training and caring for the body. I know for me, just dancing is not enough training. In order for me to stay healthy and avoid injury, I have to cross-train and stretch my muscles; otherwise, I think my dance career would be extremely short. I always find it refreshing to learn about an artist’s hobbies outside of dance because it shows me that you can have a career in dance, but still have a pretty well-rounded life outside of it as well. It is all about balance. I agree with Stephen about what a modern dancer in 2013 needs, such as educating others. The more educated the general public is about the arts and dance, the more likely those same people will be to advocate for the arts and hopefully watch a performance.

Caitlin Rose

I felt that reading Stephen Koester's blog was very honest, and insightful to the inner workings of the dance world, from a professional stand point. It's always inspiring to read success stories of dancers who are, "late bloomers." It adds to the small amount of confidence that I have, knowing that I can succeed if I give it my best effort, no matter how late I started. His comments regarding what kind of dancer he is looking for, as a choreographer, only reminded me how important it is to always put myself into my dancing, and not just focus on technique. The one big aspect I do question in his blog is his theory in cross training. I completely understand the relevance of training your body for dance, through dance. I do however, think that it's important to train the body with a, "whole health," mind set. I believe it's about developing the body to work as efficiently, and as safely as possible. That may mean taking yoga, or cross training at the gym. You may not always have the opportunity to have a full body, invested work out. You want to keep your body, as your instrument, working as smoothly as possible. I did, however, think that his views on life as inspiration for dancer were insightful. It gave me new ideas about pulling my own experiences in life, and using them in dance. I was most impressed with his thoughts on arts advocacy. It is so important for us to share what we know and have learned about dance with the rest of the world. Expanding others' knowledge about dance expandes our resources, jobs, and creative outlets. This was a great blog to read.

Alison Ribellino

It amazes me whenever I read or learn about somebody that had not started dancing until college. Even though I did not start really training in ballet or modern dance until my sophomore year of high school I still starting dancing at the age of three. I believe that having another passion in life besides dance can be very helpful. It is truly fate that Stephen Koesters plan as an architecture fell through that summer and he was able to take the Nancy Hauser summer workshop and fall back in love with dance. After pursuing almost everything you can in the dance world; dancing, choreographing, and running a company with his partner Terry Creach, he finally decided he was going to give it up. Then, yet again dancing fell back into his life. He began teaching some master classes and then ultimately became a professor and chair person of the University of Utah. I found it very inspiring when Stephen said that he believes that if you truly have the passion to dance you will make it happen. This is amazing because as a dancer I feel that their are many times that I doubt my ability to really make it in this field even though I have a huge passion to dance. Even though I understand that each dancer is unique I still find myself looking at other dancers and wishing I could move like them. I think this battle is one that a lot of dancers and people deal with on a regular basis. I agree that having amazing technique can only bring a dancer so far in this industry. In order to fully be a dancer you need to be able to give all of yourself to the choreography and movement. Dancing can never only be about the movements or technique, it has to be about your passion and expression. When it comes to cross training I believe this is very important because dancers need to make sure their bodies are not only strong for dancing, but for a whole health purpose. I agree that dancing is the only way to truly train your dancing, but you need to train all of your muscles. Every dancer needs to advocate for them self and their dancing as much as possible to gain more peoples understanding about the field. The only way society will have a greater understanding of dance and its full value is to watch dance and to hear from the dancers themselves. Lastly, I am very interested as to how Stephen Koester made enough money to operate a company with his partner for fifteen years.

Rein Short

Stephen Koester had a very fortunate career. It seemed as though dance was almost meant to be for him. He started later on in life, which is not typical but when found I feel you mainly see dancers with an incredible amount of passion. Koester was honest when saying he got into dance because his original plan, architecture, was not working out. Then after 15 years of choreographing he left dancing of fear he had run out of the drive. He luckily stumbled into dancing again through a different lens. Koester’s honesty calmed fears I had of my own. There have been days where I question if I have what it takes to pursue this career. Hearing that even someone with a 15 year long professional career have these same doubts was soothing. I have always found my way to dance and no matter the rough days, the good make it entirely worth it. One point I disagreed with was his views on training the body. He admits that he does not typical warm-up or cool-down but would not recommend that to a fellow dancer. I believe that by fully indulging yourself in all things relating to dance you will receive the most benefits, even though it is a different way of learning. One of his ideas that stuck with me most prevalently was what serves as his inspiration. His answer was, “Life itself.” This is important to remember that all experience shape that you are. I hope to remember this inside the classroom, while performing, and also as a choreographer. Every dancer is different, we all are our own individuals, and that should be honored and showed because that is what sets you apart. Koester also brought up a point on being an advocate for the arts. Most people who are raised in households where the arts are prevalent, information on the arts seem common nature. Since this generation was blessed with having much more arts set up I agree with us lacking the ability to spread information of the arts. My question to Koester would be, had he wish he started dancing any sooner? I began dancing at the age of seven but it was not with the same passion as I have now or the passion I grew to have. I wonder if he would like to have always had this passion or is he happy about how his career has taken him?

Jessica Pinkett

The story of Stephen Koester inspires me. I used to be very skeptical about people who started dancing later on in life, but for Koester to start dancing in college on a whim and then was able to establish a successful and thriving career for himself is almost unheard of in the dance community. Starting dance at the age of 4, I was not able to understand the concepts of technique, rehearsals, or performances until I was much older. I believe that it may have been beneficial for Koester to start pursuing dance at an older age because he had a higher level of respect for the art form as well as a better understanding of himself so that he may be more aware of what this discipline acquired and that he was ready to work. Being so passionate and completely invested in dance,Koester decided to establish a career for himself in dance. After touring with Nancy Hauser Dance Company for several years, Koester made the rather risky decision of establishing a dance company in New York City. Joining forces with Terry Creach and forming Creach/Koester, Koester was able to have 15 successful years with his own company. Even though the career path regarding company work withered, his love for dance never dimmed. Living his life and incorporating the events and circumstances that life brings into dance is the perfect marriage. The two worlds becoming one brings an entirely new level of excitement and adds layers to the foundation of purely technique. I was really intrigued by what he likes in a dancer. That sense of abandon and risk taking is what we are exploring now in dance class. I am able to see and physically feel the beauty in these different qualities of movement. Something that I found odd was the fact that he never really took care of his body. He understands the importance of taking care of ones body and he doesn't encourage following in his footsteps regarding his health in that regard. Overall I genuinely enjoyed this blog post.

Arielle Israel

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Meli'sa Grier

I really liked learning that you were a late beginner because I share that as well. I didn’t start learning how to dance professionally until middle school. It was always something that I loved but too expensive to partake in for my family status. Finding out that you started dancing in college is a real inspiring tale. I feel that starting dance at a later date and under the circumstance that I was in made me appreciate it that much more like you. You said you had a better appreciation and awareness of yourself that I wish to also find within myself. It’s amazing that you took what you later found that you loved and made a career out it. The dance world can be a challenge but you had faith that you could do it. I know that it was a challenge to push through the bad days and look forward to the good. Are you happy that your career has brought you to become a university professor and dance department Chair? Would you ever like to go back onstage again or are you content in your life? I respect your decision to quit because if your heart wasn’t fully in it than the best thing to do is move on. I find that you are right to take a hiatus from things every once and a while because it puts things into perspective. I liked reading about what you think are the key skills in being a modern dancer because as a student I am the future of dance. My generation will advocate for dance and it will be shaped by what we bring to the dance world.

Jasmine Rivera

It's a beautiful thing that dance has the ability to draw in individual's, such as Stephen Koester, into it's exciting and inspiring world. I found it incredibly inspiring that he started dancing later in life though he had managed to experience so much. It actually gives me hope for my own future that one day I will experience great things as he has. After 15 years of professional work Koester admitted he was losing his drive which forced him to close his company. I truly appreciate the honesty he had with himself and then proceeded to make a change. This was something I could relate to. I feel especially in training at school all I do is dance, it is not often where I can experience it others way, always taking classes. I think I need to be honest with myself more often when I can sense I am losing my drive and as my teachers have recommended in the past try to go see shows more often. He made a great point that without anything exciting to bring to dance it just isn't, he says, "Without a life outside of dance, there isn’t much to bring to dance".
Are you happy you made the drastic career change? How would your life change if dance were not a part of it? Thank you for your insight on key skills for the future. As a student I tend to forget, yes, I am the future and I will keep these things in mind as I further my training.

Shaela Davis

I found this blog very insightful and it gave me hope for the future. Koester's story is very interesting, especially because he started dance at, what we consider, a late age, accidentally. I started dancing at the age of 5 because my Mom forced me into a class. Koester and Creach created an all male dance company entitled Creach/Koester. The idea of working with great choreographers on such a personal level was a smart move on their part. Koester's break for dance acted as a driving force to get back into dance. There was a new found respect for the art form. Although, I'm not taking a hiatus from it, I do use the times where I'm not dancing to focus in on something else like social life or academics. I definitely want to take his advice on getting works out there. I have something to share with the world so I'm not going to let lack of resources to get in my way. He talks about being more than a technical dancer. I strive to put emotion behind my dancing so the audience can relate to me. My question for Koester is: Do you ever doubt the choice you made? If so, how do you combat those doubtful thoughts.

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