Dani Kuepper started on her path to becoming a professional dancer and choreographer the only way you can: by putting one foot in front of the other.
Originally a vocal performance major at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Kuepper decided to transfer to UW-Milwaukee, unsure of exactly what she wanted to do. She started as a business major, but quickly discovered that wasn’t the right fit either. One day, she walked past a dance class in UWM’s Peck School of the Arts and decided to give it a try. She had finally found the right fit.
Kuepper cites Ed Burgess – a former dance department chair who passed away in 2011 – as being particularly influential both professionally and personally. “Ed helped to shape my entire life – my artistic life and my career; he even affected how I raise my children,” she says. “Right away, Ed believed in me. In the beginning, I was in a class with majors and non-majors, and I wanted to absorb every single thing. Ed saw how important it was for me to dance. He gave me the courage.”
Earning her MFA helped Kuepper solidify her vision as a choreographer. And she says teaching has also helped to make her a better choreographer. “It’s training the eye, over and over, breaking it down with emphasis. I love teaching. I get lost in it,” she says.
Kuepper continues to teach today as an adjunct faculty member in the Peck School Dance Department. She is also the artistic director of Danceworks Performance Company and has choreographed more than 25 shows for the group. In 2009 the Business Journal of Greater Milwaukee honored her as a “Forty under 40” recipient – another big step on Kuepper’s professional and personal journey that began at the Peck School. And, she also received the UWM Alumni Association Teaching Excellence Award for non-tenure track instructors in 2010.
Her advice for aspiring dancers and choreographers? “Sometimes you get cut short of what you would achieve if you had just followed your instincts,” she says. “Trust yourself. Do what you’re interested in. Let it unfold.”