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Setting the Stage: Drive, Love For Dance Has Analisa Palla Peering Into Her Dream Future

Story By:
Paul Miller | Director of Strategic Communications and Community Relations
Two female dancers perform on stage during Evening of Dance
Analisa Palla '24 (front) dances during Evening of Dance 2022 (Photo by Soren Frantz '22)

Driven, creative, thriving at a college where potential and passion collide, and building a future around her dreams, Analisa Palla ’24 is approaching life as if all the stars in the sky are within her reach.

Analisa began dancing at age 3 and never looked back.

Now, the Keene State senior – flush with confidence and about to earn degrees in business management and dance with a specialization in choreography and performance – is imagining career paths that do not lack options.

First, however, there is Evening of Dance, the College’s popular spring tradition that showcases a collection of original faculty work performed by Keene State students, like Analisa, in a collaborative performance setting.

The 50th-anniversary edition, Dressed in Blue, pays homage to Ira Gershwin’s famous musical composition Rhapsody in Blue. Students, faculty, guest artists, and designers across several disciplines will perform shows over three days at the Redfern Arts Center on campus.

Analisa is not sure she could be more excited. Set to have a role in all three planned numbers and be dance captain in two, she describes her growth as a student and performance dancer with pride.

“We had a student, Kendall Page, who was a friend and sort of the student face of the Dance Department before she graduated. I admired her, and I set out to fill her shoes this year, to try to be the role model to everyone that Kendall was. Going into Evening of Dance, I feel fulfilled … I feel I accomplished that.”

“The show is going to be impressive,” the Middleton, Massachusetts, native added. “In one dance, two dancers are stuck in one T-shirt. I had my doubts about the concept, but the dance, while hard, has been a whole lot of fun. There’s not been a year when I have adored all three numbers in this show but this year I love the themes and the processes of all the dances.”

More than two dozen student dancers, 25 student technical support hands, and 60 student concert band members are among those involved in the production, months in the making. It is that strong student involvement, Analisa said, that makes Evening of Dance feel intimate and rewarding.

A Keene State Dance Team member who enjoys listening to and editing music; art in any form, including drawing, painting, and collage; and fashion makeup, Analisa embraces her originality and describes being busy as “the way that I like to function.” She is grateful for her close family, including three older brothers.

Front and center in her corner is her mother, Maureen Palla.

“Thinking out of the box, and determination are part of Analisa’s personality, and she loves it when somebody recognizes her abilities,” Maureen said. “She thrives on that, and who doesn’t? She wants her creativity to get out there, not only for her internal fulfillment but for the enjoyment of others.” Maureen credits the supportive and learning family that Analisa found at Keene State for bringing out the best in her daughter.

“She got excited about the College from the beginning, from her first time visiting campus. And her father and I knew right away that this was where her heart was. The Theatre Department invited her to go to a class and see what it was like … it was that kind of personal touch. That’s what she did, and it only strengthened her strong first impressions of the college.”

Cynthia McLaughlin, associate professor of dance, said the feeling is mutual, calling Analisa a “magnet on stage and in the studio.”

“Keene State has expanded Analisa’s understanding of the kinds of questions dance is capable of asking,” McLaughlin added. “As a process-driven program, our methods have resonated with how Analisa looks for opportunities to discover rather than always being given the answers. Each individual plays a role in defining the choreographic worlds we devise. I don’t think Analisa realized this type of process was possible in dance, and it awakened something truly remarkable in her.”

Last March, Analisa attended the American College Dance Association showcase at Montclair State University when a piece she choreographed for her Research In Choreography class the previous semester was chosen to represent Keene State.

Then, in the summer, thanks to a Michael D. Keller Memorial Award scholarship, Analisa traveled to North Carolina to participate in the American Dance Festival and further her dance research. Outstanding choreography and performance created on college and university campuses are a highlight of this summer intensive.

Adding a second major, business management, was not to do double duty, but to expand Analisa’s professional opportunities after college. It was a decision that she second-guessed, feeling it might take away from more focus on her passion, dancing. But a class on advertising and promotion opened her eyes to the importance of that extra work and degree.

“My professor, Dudley Blossom, made the class so fun and interactive, but what it did was make me realize that my creativity and artistic skills do have a place in the management department. My interest in business was redirected after that.”

Keene State’s dance curriculum is based on modern and contemporary dance with a focus on technique, choreography, and performance. Analisa’s specialization leads to a BA degree. Other specializations are dance education (BA degree) and K-12 dance education certification (BA in theatre & dance and a BS in elementary education or early childhood development).

Analisa Palla (2)
Analisa and Faith Daley rehearse a number for Evening of Dance.

Analisa answers some of our questions:

KSC Describe yourself in one word and explain why you chose the word you did.

AP “Pensive: I like to think about things in my life as having a deeper meaning. I believe that everything happens for a reason and I am interested in the patterns and signs that life reveals. There is always something more I can think of … a place or topic I can delve deeper into. The impossibility of completely getting there drives me and keeps me motivated.”

KSC Where do you want to be in ten years?

AP “I hope to have found a balance in my life with work and play. I want to be proud of myself for how far I’ve come and hopefully have a lot of choreography and/or performing under my belt. By that point, too, I hope to have gone to grad school since I want to be a dance professor.”

KSC What drew you to Keene State and what made it a good fit?

AP “When I first toured the campus, I felt intuitively that I belonged at Keene. I was amazed by the dance program but especially by how important the dance department head, Cynthia Mclaughlin, made me feel. Every day since she has never failed to make me feel just as important. I have worked hard and dedicated my all to the program and I have received nothing but genuine support, love, and life-changing opportunities.”

KSC As a high school student, did you know what you wanted to study in college?

AP “As long as I can remember, and as soon as I knew what college was, I knew I would study dance. Even as a little girl, dance was something that I knew would always be a part of me and my life. In high school I began to take an interest in business, my second degree, especially around advertising and promotion.”

KSC What advice might you share with a high schooler considering college?

AP “My biggest advice is to stay true to yourself. There have been so many moments where I wasn’t sure of where to go or what to do next, and the best decision for me always ended up being to listen to my intuition. This goes for career changes, friendships, or any situation.”

KSC You describe dancing as more than meets the eye. How so?

AP “It’s so much more than just movement. Dancers are constantly asking questions and learning new things about different bodies and why they function the way they do. Physics and anatomy are topics that fascinate me. Every dance class is like a new science lab experiment. There is no right or wrong in this discipline because every dancer is experimenting with their body and how it feels on a particular day.”

KSC How do you define modern dance?

AP “There’s no easy, simple answer. You ask different people, even professors, and you will get different answers. It’s interpretative, but for me what it is most is a melting pot of all the (dance) genres. For me, dance has never been about the competitive aspect.”

KSC Pull a highlight from your dancing/education resume and explain why you pulled the one you did.

AP “No doubt it is being chosen to represent Keene State at the American College Dance Association. When I learned my piece had been chosen, it was a feeling like no other. I further developed that work to present it in front of adjudicators at the festival, where I took classes, auditioned, and performed. I had the opportunity to work with guest lighting and costume designers here at Keene. Once it was performance time, I got to learn how to call my lighting cues as my piece was being performed. Seeing my piece on stage was validating, and one of the best feelings I’ve ever experienced.”

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