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Graduate’s dancing takes her around globe

By : Eric Coker

Erin Stanley admits she wasn’t ready for college after high school. The self-proclaimed rebellious teen instead opted to work for her father’s bluestone quarry and other odd jobs.

“I wanted to live,” Stanley said. “But then you realize living is working hard and paying rent. You learn that you need to go to school: it’s a necessity. It’s quite enjoyable and can take you places you never thought you could go.”

Stanley’s journey to graduation has taken her to places such as China, as part of a summer dance course led by Theatre Professor Fred Weiss. She has been to Ireland, Austria, Germany and all around the world as a member of the renowned dance troupe Galumpha. And the journey even brought her to the Department of Classical and Near Eastern Studies, where Stanley has worked part time as a keyboard specialist since 2004.

The 27-year-old from Friendsville, Pa., graduated May 17 with a bachelor of arts degree in theatre. Stanley transferred to Binghamton from Broome Community College in 2003 and became a theatre major after rediscovering her love of dance.

Stanley said she remembers wanting to dance even as a 2-year-old; she began lessons at age 6. At 15, she tore ligaments in her ankle during a competition and would not dance again until taking a jazz class with Weiss seven years later.

“Everything just picked up after that,” she said.

Enter Galumpha.

Stanley had performed as an extra dancer for the group, which she describes as “experiments in human architecture.” But in the fall of 2007, a dancer was injured and a replacement was needed soon, as a performance at Watters Theater was nearing.

“I was desperate for a performer,” said Andy Horowitz, artist-in-residence and president/director of Galumpha. “I looked all over. We had gigs coming up in Europe … prestigious bookings. I needed someone who could go into rehearsals immediately.

“I asked Erin, ‘Do you want to do this?’ She said, ‘Hell, yeah.’ She was such a joy to work with — everything you could ask for in a performer.”

Horowitz taught Stanley the choreography and Galumpha’s third member, Marlon Torres, arrived two weeks before the December show.

“We got the show ready in 14 days and I’ve been dancing with them ever since,” she said.

Galumpha has taken its blend of dance, acrobatics and physical comedy all over the world. The trio will perform next month in Venezuela and has shows planned for January at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.

“Erin is an extraordinary dancer and a wonderful artistic performer,” Horowitz said. “She is a joy to watch onstage. We depend on her for every show. I hope to work with her for a long time.”

While performing with Galumpha has taught Stanley about trust and teamwork on the stage, it also has helped her in the classroom.

“I’ve always been very shy,” she said. “I didn’t even go to professors and talk with them. Now I’ve realized that developing relationships with professors is important. I’ve learned how to be a little more outgoing.”

Stanley has thrived academically in the Theatre Department, earning its Albert Nocciolino Excellence in Theatre Award this year and the Jack Berman Award as a junior. She excelled despite a busy schedule that featured mornings providing administrative support for the Department of Classical and Near Eastern Studies.

Besides dance, Stanley enjoys fishing and is designing a website for a lawn and landscaping company. She won a world sparring title at age 16 in Tang Soo Do, a Korean martial art similar to taekwondo.

Although she has graduated, Stanley plans to remain on campus through her Classical and Near Eastern Studies position. She also will continue touring with Galumpha and may teach dance someday.

“You could put me in the category of somebody who (originally) looked at school one way: I wasn’t enthusiastic about it all,” she said. “Now I can’t say enough about my experience here. The faculty and staff of the Theatre Department are amazing and I appreciate all the advice and support they have given me during my time here. Everyone I’ve met on campus is amazing. I’m glad I stuck around.”

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Last Updated: 10/14/08