‘Roots’ Shows Growth of Dance Ensemble

April 18, 2011 / by / 0 Comment

By Doug Carroll
Communications Staff

It’s not just what Susannah Keita knows, it’s who she knows.

The teachings of GCU’s director of dance are clearly sinking in, as evidenced by the performance of her students in their spring concert, “Roots of Paradise,” over the weekend at Ethington Theatre. The technical skill and confidence of the 12-member Dance Ensemble have improved noticeably since its winter concert, “Kinetic Dreams,” in December.

Photo by Jerry Bauer

That said, it also pays that Keita is connected. “Roots of Paradise” borrowed freely from Zari Le’on, who spent a memorable week in residency on campus in March, performing and teaching advanced classes. With its rhythmic foot stomping and athletic movements, Le’on’s “Love Drum Talk” brought a primal urgency to the stage and featured some of Dance Ensemble’s best performers, including Kelsey Alexander, Caroline Branch, Antoinette Proctor and Keita herself.

Guest pieces also were contributed by Anton Smith of The Human Project and Jenny Gerena of Scottsdale Community College. And GCU vocal student Justice Odem of the McTaggart School of Irish Dance brought the house down with an eye-popping tap-dance number set to the disco-style “Canned Heat” by Jamiroquai.

The program’s aesthetics also represented a leap forward by the troupe. Assistant Dean Bill Symington’s spare set of three bare trees worked perfectly with Nola Yergen’s costuming and Dean Claude Pensis’ lighting.

Not nearly enough has been said this year about the behind-the-scenes work of Yergen, who has successfully built a wardrobe from scratch for the College of Fine Arts and Production. GCU’s theatre and dance productions consistently have looked fabulous, all the way back to “The Pirates of Penzance” in September.

Photo by Jerry Bauer

The opening “Roots” piece, “A Prolonged Conversation With Fruit,” choreographed by Keita, established the theme with a pulsating jungle beat and an Adam-and-Eve pas de deux at the end involving Branch and Semaj Atkins. Branch’s ballet training makes her a joy to watch in everything she does onstage.

The GCU dance team also contributed to the program with “Freedom Is Expression,” set to “Hide and Seek” by Imogen Heap. “Redemption,” an original solo piece by Proctor set to “Optimist” by Zoe Keating, was well-suited to Proctor’s highly expressive, spiritual style. Poses of prayer and praise served as punctuation for her muscular, athletic moves.

Dance Ensemble consists of Alexander, Atkins, Branch, Proctor, Teresa Alvarado, Bethany Baumer, Ashley Brown, Victoria Brown, Keely Gilbreath, Alexa Hockless, Alex Montoya and Conni Torres. With successful winter and spring shows in its first year on campus, and more talent on the way, the future appears bright for 2011-12.

Reach Doug Carroll at 639.8011 or [email protected].

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