Monday, April 24, 2017

Spotlight On: Abby Okoneski

This week's Student Spotlight features one of our dancers! Abby Okoneski has been dancing with the Minnesota State University, Mankato Dance Department since she got here three years ago. Most recently, you may have seen her onstage as an Exotic Dancer and Nubian ensemble member in AIDA. She'll be dancing in the Spring Dance Concert this weekend on Friday, April 28th at 7:30 PM, and Saturday, April 29th at 2:00. Let's get to know her!


Name: Abby Okoneski
Hometown: Eagan, Minnesota
Year/Major: Junior/BFA Dance
Current Role: Dancing in the Spring Dance Concert

How did you get your start in dance? I started dancing when I was three years old at a local studio called, Monique School of Dance. My mom signed me up for dance class with one of her friend’s daughters and I haven’t stopped since. I don’t remember much from being the little three year old that I was, but I do remember loving every minute of dance class. Many kids in my class would cry or mess around, but I remember always being very happy and focused during class. I never fought with my mom about going to class because I was the one always asking when it was time to go to dance.




What's your favorite thing about dance? This question is hard to answer, because I have so many favorite things about dance. To begin, I love performing on stage. The vulnerability that comes with performing is something I love for. It sounds crazy, but the idea of putting myself out there for others to think about and look at what I am doing is so intriguing to me. I find it so interesting that I can tell an audience a story through the movement of my body and get a reaction out of them. Performing as a whole is where I can give it my all and really commit to a moment, which is something I love. Since I can’t pick one favorite thing about dance, I also really enjoy the rehearsal and class process as a dancer. I like being able to push past my own boundaries and figure out what I can do and what I need to work on. I find it very humbling that there is something I can always get better at. The discipline that comes with dance has taught me so many things and I am truly thankful for that.




Favorite MSU Dance memory? I have so many MSU dance memories, but if I had to choose one it would be the duet that I did with Ian Lah. Rachel Dreist choreographed a duet for the both of us called, Stage Four. This dance had many chapters and always kept evolving. This dance allowed me to really connect with myself as a performer. I was pushed past my comfort zone in so many ways, and I found that so enjoyable. The final product of this dance was performed in the Fall Dance Concert, as well as at ACDA. It was very rewarding to be able to perform this dance so many times, but I also really enjoyed the process we took to get there. Getting to know Ian Lah throughout this process was something else. We would always goof off in rehearsals and we became closer that way, which I think showed in our performance. I will forever be very thankful to both Ian and Rachel for this dance, and I will never forget it.


Abby Okoneski and Ian Lah in Stage Four

Tell us about your involvement in AIDA. Was that your first experience in a musical? This is actually my first official theatre show that I have ever done. Back in high school we had a variety show through our theatre department called, ENCORE and I was involved in the show for three years. I never acted or sang in the show, but I danced and really enjoyed it. I remember I would always tell myself to audition for one of the musicals, but the whole singing thing really threw me for a loop so I never auditioned. Since Aida is my first musical ever, I am very proud of myself. I overcame a fear of singing in front of people and I am very glad I did. I have had a great experience with the show and I love the different dynamic a musical brings versus a dance concert.

Abby Okoneski and the cast of AIDA

What are your plans for after graduation? You know, this question always frustrates me because I really don’t know the answer. I know I will be going to grad school to complete my other major, but I do plan on performing either right after I graduate from Mankato, or after grad school. I really want to visit New York or LA and audition for a few dance roles there, but I am not really sure what will happen. I know that I am looking forward to graduating and being out in the real world, as well as seeing what happens in the future.



Any advice for aspiring performers? Advice can be hard because I believe everyone succeeds in their own way, but I would say that anyone aspiring to become a performer should keep trying. It sounds cliché I know, but it is the truth. Spend as much time as you can in the studio trying new things and perfecting old things, the stronger background and technique that you have will really help in the long run. One last piece of advice that I have for performers is to always be humble no matter what. There are times where things do not go your way, or you feel unchallenged in certain areas, but you always have to tell yourself that you can always be better. Being humble can get you so far in life, and it is something that many people forget to do. Keeping a positive mind and energy is all you can do, and trust me it makes a difference.





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