Dance Dept. Hosts Guest Artist Zari Le’on This Week

March 07, 2011 / by / 0 Comment

By Doug Carroll
Communications Staff

Anyone up for a “kinetic sermon”?

That’s what Zari Le’on Dance Theater is promising to deliver at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Sanctuary, on the second level of the Student Recreation Center. And Le’on, of Santa Cruz, Calif., can hardly wait to start preaching.

The women of Zari Le’on Dance Theater.

“I went to private Christian schools my whole life, and it was awesome,” Zari Le’on says. “This is a homecoming of sorts for me.”

Le’on’s four-woman ensemble will present “glitterBlack: Suite Soul,” which uses 10 distinct pieces to fuse the techniques of African-American dance pioneer Katherine Dunham with club, street and hip-hop forms.

“It’s a call-and-response between singing and dancing,” Leon says. “There’s a structure to it. I like to call my style ‘contemporary vernacular.’ It’s rootsy, with a celebratory message.”

The performance has received glowing notices.

“The song choices are brilliant,” one reviewer wrote. “I loved the positivity of it, the worship of it, the love in it.”

Le’on, who has had her own northern California troupe since 2003, also will teach classes to GCU dance students in her four-day residency. In addition, there will be a master class in contemporary vernacular that is open to the public, from 12:30 to 2 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday and from noon to 1:15 p.m. Wednesday and Friday.

College campuses are familiar territory to Le’on, who has done residencies before and recently received her master’s degree in fine arts from the University of Michigan.

“I can’t tell you how important it is to make dance accessible,” says Le’on, who began dancing at the age of 7 in a community program with her mother. “I always had a football player’s body, short and stocky. I wanted to find something that worked for me, and the Dunham technique was that.

“My whole thing is ‘come on and dance.’ I love teaching and I take it seriously. I want to be equally adept at performing and teaching.”

Le’on and GCU’s director of dance, Susannah Keita, first connected through a mutual friend. Both are Dunham disciples.

“The Dunham technique breeds a different type of dancer,” Le’on says, “one invested in finding uniqueness.”

Even so, all dance forms share a need for serious commitment to the art.

“I once had a teacher who said, ‘I spell dance W-O-R-K,’” Le’on says. “You can learn a lot about yourself this way.”

To RSVP for Wednesday’s performance, which is free, call 639.8880 or email [email protected].

Reach Doug Carroll at 639.8011 or [email protected].

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