Guest Artist to Teach Dunham Dance Technique on Campus

February 17, 2012 / by / 0 Comment

By Doug Carroll
GCU News Bureau 

It was a dance class similar to the one he will teach in a few days at GCU that changed the life of Keith Williams. 

While home in East St. Louis, Ill., for the weekend from his studies as a physical-therapy major at the University of Illinois, Williams decided to drop in on a class taught by Archie Savage, a longtime member of Katherine Dunham’s dance troupe. 

Keith Williams will be GCU's artist in residence for a week, working with dance students.

“The drums, the movement, the release of energy … it just took over,” recalls Williams, who transferred to Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, switched to a performing-arts major and soon was on his way to a dance career that took him to New York City and all over the world. 

However, that career hadn’t brought him to Phoenix until now. Williams will teach a master class in the Dunham Technique at noon Monday in the second-floor Sanctuary of the Student Recreation Center on campus. The class will be followed at 1:30 p.m. by an hourlong lecture from Williams on Dunham’s theory of form and function. 

Intermediate- and advanced-level dancers with previous dance training may participate in the master class, which is free to GCU students, staff and faculty ($5 for the general public). 

Williams will be on campus for the entire week as an artist in residence with the Dance Department. He made the acquaintance of Susannah Keita, GCU’s director of dance, at an annual Dunham seminar last summer in the St. Louis area. 

“She said I really worked their butts hard,” says Williams, adding that he plans to do the same with GCU’s dance students during his time on campus. 

One of his priorities will be to choreograph a new piece set to Bobby McFerrin’s “Sweet in the Morning.” The result is expected to be performed as part of GCU’s spring dance concert April 27 and 28 in Ethington Theatre. 

Dunham, a Chicago native who died in 2006 at age 96, was an innovator in African-American modern dance. Her technique blended Caribbean rhythms with the movements of ballet, and she is considered one of the three pioneers of modern dance. (The others: Isadora Duncan and Martha Graham.) 

The Dunham Technique “integrates body, mind and spirit,” Williams says. “It’s not an easy technique.” 

Williams, who has his own St. Louis-based company, Innervision Dance Theatre, is currently involved in integrating the arts into K-12 curriculum and says he finds the work rewarding. He has done residencies on college campuses before, and his experiences as a singer and actor help inform his choreography. He says he likes to “get inside the minds” of dancers, treating them as if they were actors. 

“My versatility made my career very fruitful and allowed me to travel the world,” Williams says. “I’m more excited now to share what I’ve learned with younger artists. 

“When I get excited, I work even harder. It’s going to be a week of hard work. I’ll have my taskmaster hat on.” 

Contact Doug Carroll at 639.8011 or doug.carroll@gcu.edu.


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