Weaving In and Out of Wor(l)ds

BA alum Eve Schulte reveals how dance and literature inform each other
Two photos of English alum Eve Schulte dancing

Alumna Eve Schulte (BA 2010) was still in high school when she became a company member with Minnesota Dance Theatre: she finished her diploma via the PSEO program at the U. Continuing on as a college student, she attended evening classes while dancing full-time. After four years, she had graduated with an English BA and joined James Sewell Ballet (JSB). "I was passionate about my English studies, and I thought I might become a teacher or a writer," she says. "Ten years after graduating, I’ve only ever made my living as a dance performer, maker, or educator." She has excelled in that path: These days she's Artistic Associate and dancer at JSB, which this celebrated 30 years with an Anniversary Retrospective Tour; Schulte also regularly adventures beyond that company as a choreographer, educator, and performer.

"It’s my job to be curious,
to explore that curiosity,
and to move an audience
to experience a range of
emotions and thoughts."
                   - Eve Schulte

What do you most enjoy about the world of dance? What have been high points?

I really enjoy the constant learning I engage in—it’s my job to be curious, to explore that curiosity, and to move an audience to experience a range of emotions and thoughts. I think dance can mainline to the heart in a beautiful way that isn’t necessarily dependent on words or logic, and that notion excites me. It’s also part of what makes dance inaccessible to some people—a play is immediately more “understandable.” I’m most interested in creating something that isn’t necessarily understood, but is meaningful and inspirational, no explanation necessary.

High points include: dancing with a chainsaw (plugged in and operational) in James Sewell’s Guy Noir; performing a solo work created with Leralee Whittle that redefined my sense of play and precision; inhabiting Sharon Eyal & Gai Behar’s Killer Pig; improvising along with the Ahn Trio at the top of Lone Peak in Big Sky, Montana (11,000 feet high); becoming Barbie in Myron Johnson’s Nutcracker (Not So) Suite; traveling to Denmark, France & Germany as co-director of a student group; co-directing Live Action Set’s Unset, a project that invited untrained audience participants on stage to co-create an improvised, movement-based piece with an ensemble of trained dancers; and performing at the Toronto International Film Festival (Titicut Follies, a work JSB made in collaboration with acclaimed filmmaker Frederick Wiseman).

I also met the man I share my life with in the studio 16 years ago, and we continue to find new adventures together.

How do the skills you learned in the study of literature support what you do?

My studies taught me how to process information in multiple ways, balance differing perspectives, communicate intent-fully, and dream/imagine/create in a big way. These are all qualities that make me a better dancer and member of the company.

Words and writing have been important tools for sourcing material (both physical and conceptual) as a choreographer. I find really interesting patterns of movement by tracing words or phrases in space or through my body in various ways. Sometimes the meaning, rather than the spelling, of the word is abstracted into movement. I choreographed a piece based on Kate Chopin’s The Awakening, which received a nomination for a 2016 MN Sage Award for Outstanding Performance. I’ve performed in an immersive, interactive telling of Crime and Punishment with Live Action Set, an interpretation of Dante’s Inferno with JSB, and a number of operatic stories.

The direct application of good writing (and related good communication) has come more into play in recent years as I’ve stepped into artistic associateship with James Sewell Ballet. Besides dancing, I am now doing all sorts of other tasks related to company organization: serving as liaison between administrative and artistic staffs, engaging guest choreographers and musicians, assisting with grant writing, etc.

Any advice for current majors interested in careers in performance?

Immerse yourself in disciplines that inspire you, and engage in activities or studies that will leave you with a well-rounded sense of self and knowledge. I advise all dance majors to supplement with an additional major, or at least minor. For a few years after graduation, as I continued to dance full-time with JSB and in other project-based work, I jokingly thought of my degree solely as a safety net, but of course realize more and more how crucial my education is to my not-so-obviously related career in dance.

Dance is an ephemeral art form and demanding on bodies, and results in an earlier career transition compared to most other occupations. I am thankful for how my degree will assist me in that inevitable transition.

What do you most appreciate about your time at the University of Minnesota?

I never lived on campus so sometimes felt a little “out of it," but would have changed nothing looking back—I appreciated the freedom and built-in lesson to self-motivate. It was a rigorous schedule, for sure, but having three hours of class time to dive into after a long day in the studio was more often refreshing than not.

I remember a Department of English African cinema course that thoroughly engaged me, and also remember wishing I had more time to devote to it. I remember well a couple of courses in American Indian studies, a world lit class, and a Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature class. Attending only evening classes made scheduling the courses for a complete degree a bit complicated: I am grateful to English advisor Beverly Atkinson for her assistance.

What books are you recommending these days?

Currently reading Out Loud by Mark Morris, and Fundraising for Social Change by Kim Klein.

Photos by Erik Saulitis

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