Peace to radiate through Dance Department’s winter concerts
By Janie Magruder
GCU News Bureau
The world was not at peace last summer when Susannah Keita, director of the Dance Department in the College of Fine Arts and Production, and her faculty chose “Pacem in Terris” — “Peace on Earth” — as the theme for the Grand Canyon University Winter Dance Concert.
It certainly is not now.
So what better opportunity than this, and as Christians around the globe celebrate the birth of their Savior, to remind us that in the words of Pope Francis, “There can be no real peace and harmony if we fail to work for a more just” and supportive society.
Students in the Ethington Dance Ensemble will perform 10 pieces choreographed by faculty and guest artists for “Pacem in Terris,” at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday in Ethington Theatre. Click here for tickets.
“Although we need little reminder of the importance of peace in today’s world, Pope Francis’ declaration that the basis of peace-making exists in humankind’s ‘divine origin’ bears repeating,” said Keita, indirectly quoting the pope in her concert program note. “Everyone, from the smallest to the most influential among us, is called to ‘build peace, on the example of Jesus Christ.’”
“Pacem in Terris” aligns with the philosophy of COFAP’s dance education program, which teaches students to value intercultural communities and to avoid generalizations about any person or group of people, she said.
“Just preaching tolerance isn’t enough,” Keita said. “Understanding is the goal and with understanding, maybe we’ll be able to bring about peace. Our vision for the stage is for the community to see that there is hope and light through the resourcefulness of people.”
Some of the dance pieces have titles that evoke thoughts of accord — from “Comfort and Joy” to “World Peace … should be as easy as lending a cup of sugar” to “Washed, Carried.”
“In them we see, through all these different struggles, some form of resolution, not necessarily happy endings, but showing windows of opportunity for resolution, getting yourself into a tight situation and finding the way out, collaborating, accepting other people’s ideas,” Keita said. “All these things reflect the peacemaking process.”
The concerts will feature works by guest choreographers Jenny Showalter, a former GCU faculty member and co-artistic director of Treeline Dance Works, and Gigi Torres, founder of Essence, an all-female dance troupe.
“Our two guest works by Jenny and Gigi complement each other very well,” Keita said. “Jenny’s work has a laid-back coolness, and she has a knack to make the complex appear simple, but the intricacy is such that I could view it repeatedly and never get bored. Gigi’s closing piece brings the hype.”
Showalter’s piece, “Jabber,” will feature all seniors, the first time the Dance Department has done that. It likely will become a tradition, Keita said.
“We have seniors who graduate without ever stepping onto stage,” she said. “We want everyone to have that growth and to experience the process of being an ensemble member.”
The upbeat, hip hop influences in Torres’ “Impossible” are something K’Lynn Flores would have loved to perform. Instead, the GCU dance education junior was selected by Keita to be the stage manager, which is giving her firsthand experience with skills that she’ll need in her own classroom after graduation.
“When she steps into the world, she’s going to immediately have the responsibility of designing curriculum for dancers, teaching classes and being the production queen, her own stage manager, artistic director and choreographer,” Keita said. “K’Lynn’s learning that there are no small, insignificant roles, that everyone contributes to the whole, seamless production.”
Flores, who also has danced in a half-dozen shows and choreographed for another three, knows the concerts will represent not only COFAP, but also the University, a responsibility she has taken seriously.
“This show has a lot of diversity in story lines and in movement, and I’ve really enjoyed watching it all come together,” she said. “This has definitely been an adventure.”
The concerts are dedicated to former GCU dance student Nadia Ponce, who recently died in a car accident.
Contact Janie Magruder at (602) 639-8018 or [email protected]