Collaboration fosters alcohol awareness

In an area prevalent with binge-drinking, a group of Dickinson State University students is aiming to inspire responsible decision-making through an application of art and dance and this year, a dash of modern media.

A member of the Alcohol Awareness Through the Arts program practices dance choreography in May Hall, Monday evening for Friday's 7:30 p.m. performance.

In an area prevalent with binge-drinking, a group of Dickinson State University students is aiming to inspire responsible decision-making through an application of art and dance and this year, a dash of modern media.

With a birth six years ago, DSU's Alcohol Awareness Through the Arts program has boldly strived to promote knowledge of binge drinking's dangerous effects and this year, AATA has brought in a world-renown choreographer and nationally recognized artist to help with the creative process.

"As a community, we at DSU continue the ongoing battle with our culture of binge drinking," said Artistic Director and DSU Form and Fusion Dance Company Director Pattie Carr, in a press release. "We are using the arts in new and innovative ways to fight that battle."

With artistic programming slated the entire week, the dance group, comprised largely of members from DSU's Form and Fusion Dance Company, will present a multi-facet installation on Friday at 7:30 p.m. in Dorothy Stickney Auditorium on the DSU campus.

Dancing since the tender age of nine, Charlotte Boye-Christensen, artistic director of Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company in Salt Lake City, Utah, graciously agreed to choreograph the contemporary and emotional piece.


But, this is not Boye-Christensen's first visit to DSU.

"There is a curiosity and desire to learn as much as possible," said Boye-Christensen of the DSU students she has worked with. "The students here have a sense and an understanding of the discipline of dance."

Choregraphing the movements to express emotion, Boye-Christensen said one of the beautiful aspects of dance is that it can be nonspecific.

"It opens up to many difference interpretations and therefore in many ways, it becomes universal," Boye-Christensen said.

In today's expansive world, filled with countless media and artistic outlets, AATA has covered the majority through the collaboration of Dickinson native David Ebeltoft, a visual artist and writer, now residing in Brooklyn, N.Y., who is assisting students on the project all week.

"My main task with the students is to try to actually capture all the experiences here," Ebeltoft said.

With AATA's main focus as dance for several years, Ebeltoft was brought in to introduce visual arts and writing as a part of the program.

"It's this wonderful creative, artistic service that is being offered to the students and the public, but I think it needs to go beyond," Ebeltoft said.


With countless talented students at DSU, Ebeltoft said he thinks the talent can reach further audiences.

"I think I'm here to give more of the students a voice and to promote what they are doing because it can reach beyond the walls of DSU, beyond Dickinson, beyond North Dakota," Ebeltoft said.

Ebeltoft is helping students set up and maintain a blog along with Facebook and Twitter pages he hopes will be continued once he departs.

"AATA is going to be a springboard so hopefully after this week the blog will continue and promote them going forward," Ebeltoft said.

Ebeltoft branched into a new realm for this project and designed a pendant representational of AATA's message.

Half-car and half-bottle, the pendant is designed to share with a friend and will be given to the first 150 students at the event.

"In splitting up the pendant, you split the responsibility and share a commitment to drink in a sensible manner," said Ebeltoft's Web site.

Some students involved in AATA have a deeply-rooted passion for alcohol awareness.


In 2007, DSU wrestler Shane Vennett, a junior from Belle Fourche, S.D., was drinking and driving on a dirt road near Spearfish when he lost control of his pickup and was ejected out the rear window. The pickup launched Vennett 70 feet then rolled on top of him.

He had just taken second in the nation in wrestling.

Vennett sustained a broken jaw and shoulder, split spleen, bruised lungs, was in a coma for five days and had his jaw wired shut for six weeks.

"I went from 215 pounds to 165 in four weeks," Vennett said. "I couldn't move my left arm for five to seven months due to nerve damage."

With about a 40 percent chance to live, Vennett said he doesn't remember the day before or of the accident.

"To tell you the truth, my accident was something that was a long time coming," Vennett said. "I was stupid before that accident."

Vennett's life-changing experience prompted him to share his message by participating in AATA.

"It's more than getting in trouble," Vennett said. "It's being responsible while you drink."


Vennett is in his third year with AATA and will be performing in the dance for the first time on Friday.

AATA has spawned a positive influence on others, said Vennett.

"That's kind of the message that I portray, if you can't be responsible for yourself, be responsible for your family and the people that care about you," he said.

Vennett will also present a narrative piece he wrote about his experience during Friday's performance.

Fellow classmate and AATA member Ashley Magelky, of Dickinson, has been dancing since she was five.

Magelky said alcohol did not have a presence in her home during her childhood and as she has matured, she chose not to partake in drinking.

"The reason I really like this project is that we do have a problem in southwest North Dakota with people thinking the only thing to do is drink," Magelky said. "That's my main thing is trying to encourage people to think about it."

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