Dance Ensemble’s ‘Road Less Traveled’ Takes Detour Around Christmas

December 10, 2012 / by / 0 Comment

By Doug Carroll
GCU News Bureau 

Maybe someday, Susannah Keita says half-seriously, her Ethington Dance Ensemble will mount a December production of “The Nutcracker.” 

But for now, those of us already on the verge of Christmas-season overload can be grateful for “The Road Less Traveled,” the ensemble’s winter concert, which opens at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday with the first of two performances — and without a Sugar Plum Fairy in sight. 

On the GCU campus, “A Christmas Carol” and “Handel’s Messiah” already have come and gone, and the Music Department’s annual Christmas concert is scheduled for Tuesday night. “The Road Less Traveled” has nothing to do with any of the above and is based on a student-suggested theme — life’s journey — from last spring. 

“We want to choose themes that are wide-open to interpretation,” says Keita, in her third year as the University’s director of dance. “The wonderful thing about dance is that, as an audience member, you’re never wrong. You can impose a story on something that wasn’t even intended to have one.” 

The intent of the ensemble’s winter and spring concerts is to introduce original pieces choreographed by GCU faculty and performed by students. “The Road Less Traveled” includes such pieces by Keita, Zari Le’on, Leanne Schmidt, Sonja Mitrovic and Rebecca Blair Hillerby. But works created by students Samantha Newhall, Bethany Baumer and Christopher Biles also are in the show. 

Biles’ “Waiting” sounds intriguing, involving a ticking clock and an “investigation of his own psyche and how he’s dealing with the pressures of college,” Keita says, trying not to give too much away. 

Two years ago, the dance program at GCU had fewer than 10 students; now it has 50. Keita’s expectations have increased proportionately.

“Many of the students are becoming much more versed in the craft, taking on subject matter that might have intimidated them before,” she says. 

“This is a tough program…. You’ve got to be dedicated to succeed in it.” 

As word has spread of its growth and development, Keita says her students have been receiving

‘The Road Less Traveled’
7:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, Ethington Theatre. Admission: $10 ($5 for seniors and children younger than 12). Free for GCU students with ID. Tickets: 639.8880 or

 more opportunities to perform in the community, such as last weekend’s Phoenix Festival of the Arts and an upcoming program in January by Desert Dance Theatre. On campus, a recent concert of student choreography, “Illuminate,” played to a sizable crowd in Thunderground, on the lower level of Thunder Alley. 

“Most college programs are divided (in choreography) between faculty and students,” Keita says. “We’ve grown enough now that we can do that.” 

Contact Doug Carroll at 639.8011 or

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