GCU Dance Ensemble to Debut With Winter Concert

December 07, 2010 / by / 0 Comment

By Doug Carroll
Communications Staff

Dancers know all about steps, and Susannah Keita isn’t afraid to take some bold ones with GCU’s new dance-education program.

Hired in July as director of dance in the re-formed College of Fine Arts and Production, Keita isn’t allowing the small numbers of a start-up program to keep her from dreaming big. Some of that vision will be shared this weekend as GCU’s Dance Ensemble performs its winter concert, “Kinetic Dreams,” at Ethington Theatre.

The troupe has 10 dancers, seven of whom are dance majors. It’s a start, and Keita appreciates the opportunity to build something special.

“We have dancers from diverse backgrounds, and getting all of them on the same page is complicated,” she said Monday after rehearsal at the Student Recreation Center. “Some have never had studio training. Others have had 10 years of serious ballet. Some see dance as entertainment more than expression.”

Most of the troupe’s dancers are freshmen, including three — Conni Torres, Victoria Brown and Alexandra Montoya — who also are part of the Dance Team that performs at home basketball games.

“Concert dance is different from the dance line,” said Keita, who began at age 13 with ballet training and has studied with Katherine Dunham and other heavyweights of the dance world during her career.

“Dance line is to get a crowd fired up. But that doesn’t always translate well to a concert setting. Dancers have to be able to speak these different languages.”

“Kinetic Dreams” is worshipful but does not have an overt Christmas theme, Keita said. There’s an opening piece titled “Healer,” accompanied by Gabe Salazar and the Chapel band, and themes such as letting go of a loved one and dealing with psychological stress are explored. The program concludes with a high-energy piece, “Stolen Moments.”

“I wanted the program to set the idea of who GCU is in the community,” Keita said. “We’re saying it all through our dance. It’s not all about us, and that takes some of the pressure off in performance. It’s between us and our Savior. There’s a higher purpose to it.”

Those who attend “Kinetic Dreams” and the ensemble’s spring concert can expect to be challenged, she said.

“This is concert dance,” she said. “It may push boundaries, but it’s not overly sexualized. We want our shows to be family-friendly and to draw young people.”

Keita said the dance-education program already is drawing considerable interest locally at the high school and community college levels. She expects to have as many as 50 dance majors on campus next fall.

In performance, she’s looking for the unique blend of athleticism and artistry that only dancers possess.

“I have ambitions as a choreographer,” she said, “and these students are ready to take a risk and embrace dance as expressive art.

“Musicians usually are playing from a piece that’s already written. Actors work from a script. But dancers are expected to reinvent the wheel and create something new every time. That process is central to what we do. Agnes de Mille said choreography is like playing a tennis match and writing a symphony at the same time.”

“Kinetic Dreams” will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 11, and at 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 12, in Ethington Theatre. To reserve tickets, which are free, call 639.8880.

Reach Doug Carroll at 639.8011 or [email protected].

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