Story in motion

Photo of Nikita Santino by Mark Fukui

April 24, 2012

Nikita Santino '12 brings music and story to life through dance choreography. Her latest work, Campfire Scene, is one of three student-choreographed pieces featured this weekend in Spring Dance Works IX.

Share this

Nikita Santino ’12 doesn’t remember a time when she wasn’t dancing.

“I danced in my room when I was little,” said Nikita, or Keta, as her friends call her. “When I wasn’t in school, I was in some kind of dance activity.”

“It’s part of me. It always has been.”

Dance is what brought her to Pacific University four years ago.

“I heard about other dance programs, but I didn’t hear a lot, or not a lot that was good,” said the Woodburn, Ore., native. “I went on trips and visited schools, but I felt like Pacific was my place, the place I wanted to call home.”

Dance also is what is bringing her back to Pacific. Though she is set to graduate next month with a major in sociology and a minor in dance, she plans to return in the fall to participate in the new dance major.

She also is applying this fall for the Fulbright Scholarship in the hopes of studying traditional dance in other cultures around the world. Someday, she said, she would like to start her own company, choreographing pieces that combine traditional dance from different cultures.

“I love to find new ways for bodies to move,” she said. “I enjoy it more than dancing, because working with dancers and watching them grow, giving them movements and themes to portray, it’s really fulfilling.”

Choreography also lets her bring the images in her mind to life in story.

“When I listen to music, there’s something about it that makes me want to tell the story the music is telling me,” she said. “I’m very much a storyteller in my work.”

Her last piece, for example, was a moral story of a triangle, exploring the dynamics of wanting someone who wants someone else.

“I just want to sort of open up people to seeing what they go through in life, but seeing it on stage, to give them some connection and to give them a release.”

Her newest piece takes the theme of storytelling a bit more literally. Campfire Scene is one of three student-choreographed works being presented this weekend at Spring Dance Works IX, the spring concert of the dance department.

“It’s about building excitement and community, what it means to be a community and how important it is for individuals to come together in a place,” Keta said. “It’s a celebration of storytelling and the importance of that in our lives and cultures.”

The idea for the piece came to her about three years ago, when she was listening to some Celtic rock and thinking about choreographing a piece.

“I woke up at 3 a.m. one morning,” she said. “It just came to me: I want to tell a story around a campfire.”

Dance Works IX will features a special performance by Portland Dance Collaboration (PDC), guest choreographers James Healey and Cait Powers, faculty member Mary Hunt and artistic director Jennifer Camp, as well as new works by three senior student choreographers: Keta, as well as Shauna Tilp and Lindsey Olin.

The show will be presented at 7:30 p.m. April 26, 27 and 28 in the Tom Miles Theatre at Pacific University. Tickets are $5 to $7 and can be purchased at the box office, open 1 to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Limited tickets may also be available at the door.

“It’s going to be diverse. There are a plethora of themes being portrayed, and some experimental works that will be interesting,” Keta said. “It’s a strong group of individuals who are going to be giving it all on stage.”