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Follies sure to feature fun: BSU’s ‘Funtastic Dance Follies’ kicks off this week

Tyra Langhout, left, and Micaiah Graham practice their number Tuesday night during rehearsal for the 71st annual "Funtastic Dance Follies.” The annual show will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 20, Friday, April 21 and Saturday, April 22, at the John Glas fieldhouse basketball courts on the BSU campus. There will be a matinee performance at 2 p.m. Saturday, April 22. (Maggi Stivers | Bemidji Pioneer)

BEMIDJI -- One of BSU’s oldest traditions is also one of its most open.

The 71st annual Funtastic Dance Follies is an inclusive, light-hearted dance show that’s predated only by the university’s football team, organizers said. Any student, faculty member, or alumni can join in on the act and sort out their own routines, choreography, music, and dance partners.

“I manage chaos,” said Suzy Langhout, an adjunct professor in the university’s Human Performance, Sport, and Health department who directs the follies. The university’s dance team, swing and ballroom dance clubs typically perform, but most follies dancers are just groups of friends who think it might be fun, some of whom have never danced in front of an audience before.

“You're never quite sure what they're gonna do,” Langhout said. She first danced in the 1986 follies and eventually took over directing duties from her mom, who was a soloist in the first show in 1946.

This year’s follies feature an all-male rendition of “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’” (complete with short shorts) and a frenetic opening number set to “Yakety Sax.” Langhout advises the dancers and manages the show, which performers said typically has a supportive, laid-back audience.

Ryan Kurtz, a junior math and finance major, said his freshman-year RA encouraged him to give the follies a try.

“The most dancing I did, probably, was middle school phy ed,” Kurtz remembered. “I think we did the electric slide once or twice.”

But Kurtz quickly found an affinity for dance, and kept showing up to rehearsals for the follies.

“It was just kind of a domino effect,” he said. He’s set to perform in this year’s big opening and closing numbers, plus swing, ballroom, and a few more.

Kurtz’s RA then was Luke Alexander, who spent two years at BSU before becoming a full-time youth minister at St. Philip’s Catholic Church. After he graduated from high school, Alexander said, he decided to do something different and settled on dancing.

“In college, basically, you've got to try something new,” Alexander said. “I don't like seeing people just standing still in their dorm rooms or something because there's got to be something more.”

Freshman Amanda Winkels has been dancing for years, and signed up for the follies after she noticed a few dancers practicing outside her dorm during orientation week.

“It makes me happy,” she said of dancing. “I won't ever get that feeling doing anything else.”

The follies premiere Thursday at the university’s John Glas fieldhouse.

If you go

What: Bemidji State University’s 71st annual “Funtastic Dance Follies”

When: 7 p.m. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, April 20-22; and 2 p.m. Saturday, April 22

Where: John Glas fieldhouse basketball courts

Cost: $10 for adults; $5 for alumni, senior citizens and children older than 2; free for students and children younger than 2.

Info: (218) 766-4043

Joe Bowen

Joe Bowen covers education and health for the Bemidji Pioneer.

He is a Minneapolis native and a 2009 graduate of St. John's University. Before moving to Bemidji, Bowen covered education, local politics, crime, and everything in between for the Perham Focus in Perham, Minnesota, and Sun Newspapers in suburban Minneapolis.

(218) 333-9798