Ethington Dance reaches ‘The Tipping Point’

April 11, 2018 / by / 0 Comment

An Ethington Dance Ensemble dancer performs at the spring concert in 2017. This year’s concert, “The Tipping Point,” will feature 13 dances by 13 choreographers.

By Lana Sweeten-Shults
GCU News Bureau

The tipping point — when you reach that critical stage before something, even the most minor thing, will cause everything to topple, leaving disaster in its wake. Or, if you’re of the glass-is-half-full perspective, all that toppling also can mean a new beginning.

Grand Canyon University’s Ethington Dance Ensemble will bring itself to “The Tipping Point,” the theme of its year-end spring dance concert, at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at Ethington Theatre. (Click here for the Groupon ticket deal.)

“Initially, I thought about, on a societal level, when a trend reaches a tipping point, it’s a major force,” said Susannah Keita, the Dance department’s artistic director. “But tipping point can also be on a personal level.”

The theme can even apply to dance students reaching the tipping point in developing their love for dance, she said: “They need a certain amount of experience under their belt before they recognize the rewards of dancing, and you need a certain amount of skill before you enjoy it, before you feel good, before you feel like people are watching you and praising you.”

Artistic director Susannah Keita’s work in the show is a jazz piece, “Radically Us.”

Keita emphasized how the department tries to choose a theme with a wide arc that can be interpreted in many different ways. Usually what results is a similarly wide swath of dance styles and perspectives.

“My piece is called ‘Radically Us.’ It’s about jazz, as well as showing us jazz has a place in the future – that it shouldn’t die. I don’t want to reach the tipping point where it dies off,” said Keita, one of 13 choreographers who have turned in 13 works for 40 performers in “The Tipping Point.”

Counter Keita’s work against “Lorem ipsum dolor …” by choreographer and GCU dance faculty member Kevin Godfrey-Chevalier, who just wanted to present the pure beauty of dance and how that beauty can drive you to the tipping point, whether it be a boy spying a pretty girl for the first time or someone seeing that amazing sunset and feeling a tipping point in their day. The title refers to the nonsensical words used by the printing industry to represent sample text.

Stage manager Claire Schmaltz said, “He just wanted something so his dancers feel good going on the stage. It’s just showing how beautiful dance can be. It’s a totally different spectrum from, like, showing Point A in dance, Point B in dance and Point C in dance.”

The Ethington Dance Ensemble, seen at the 2017 spring dance concert, will perform everything from ballet to jazz, tap and postmodern at this weekend’s concert.

Schmaltz said a commonality she sees in some of the dances is that a few of them are about being yourself and expressing yourself.

“With the two student pieces, one of them (called “Uncomfortability,” by Turiya Chavez) is about being uncomfortable, and that’s a tipping point for a lot of people — how getting out of your comfort zone fuels things that happen and just pushes you to grow,” Schmaltz said. “It’s the difference between being yourself and not fitting into everybody else’s vibe.”

Like “Uncomfortability,” Leanne Schmidt’s humorous “*offers hand*,” which she choreographed in collaboration with the performers, is about feeling gawky in your own skin.

“Leanne’s is about prom and being awkward at prom,” Schmaltz said. “It’s 1980s-themed, and there’s awkward dancers and you’re a teenager and you’re just uncomfortable.”

“And you’re conforming,” Keita added. “They’re doing that, so I’m going to do that.”

“It’s seeing one person in one light and then seeing small differences as you get to know them. Suddenly you see them as a totally different person. It’s the tipping point between what you see and who they are,” Schmaltz said. “But it’s really fun. It’s really quirky ’80s, so it’s ’80s music.”

Expect prom dresses, too.

“I think they all got them themselves – went to Goodwill and got a $10 dress,” Schmaltz said.

Included among student- and faculty-choreographed works will be pieces by guest artists Amy Michelle Allen and Jessica Blonde.

Allen’s “N.Y.E.” will include snow falling on the stage and will make the audience wish they could go back a few months to the cooler weather. She was at GCU to engage dancers with an acting workshop and a master class featuring original material from “Hamilton” by Andy Blankenbuehler.

Blonde’s “Crescendo” features the music of Vivaldi and “resonates visually and appeals emotionally with its beautiful design,” Keita said.

Audience members can expect to see everything from a contemporary ballet to a postmodern piece, Paul Taylor modern work and tap, to name just a few of the styles.

About 40 performers will bring to life 13 dances this weekend at Ethington Theatre.

“It’s a very full-spectrum show this semester,” Schmaltz said.

Keita said she doesn’t want people who come to the concert to be overwhelmed by having to interpret everything they see. Many of the works don’t need a lot of interpretation.

One piece to be performed that doesn’t need a lot of explanation is “It Needs Work” by choreographer Marlene Strang in collaboration with the dancers. It’s the piece the Dance department put together for its elementary dance tour – the department annually brings dance to various elementary school campuses in the area.

“The theme is construction,” Keita said. “So they’re building things on stage and they’re representing those objects that might be involved in construction.”

The work will only be performed in the Sunday show, which the Dance department just added.

“There’s something for everybody in this show, which I love,” said Schmaltz.

“We’re always trying to build our audiences and build future dance educators,” Keita said. “We’re always having to advocate for our discipline and justify it to be in our schools, so reaching new audiences is really important. If you look at ‘Hamilton’ and the huge impact it’s had and the way it’s attracted new audiences because they love hip-hop, we’re looking at how we can engage new audiences in dance, without watering things down, without making any sacrifices to be less artistic.”


What: “The Tipping Point,” the spring dance concert by the Ethington Dance Ensemble

Where: Ethington Theatre, GCU campus

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday

Tickets: $12 (discounts for senior citizens, military personnel, GCU employees and alumni, children 12 years old and younger, and GCU students)

Groupon: A Groupon deal has been set up. Tickets are discounted to $6 per ticket that will run through Sunday’s show. The maximum is 50 tickets sold through Groupon per show. Click here.

Information: 602-639-8880 or click here


  • “Lorem ipsum dolor” by Kevin Godfrey-Chevalier
  • “*offers hand*” by Leanne Schmidt in collaboration with the performers
  • “Luminous” by Scott Martin
  • “When we are here” by Angel Crissman
  • “In a Station of the Metro” by Madison Knutson
  • “N.Y.E” by Amy Michelle Allen
  • “Rain” by Scott Martin
  • “It Needs Work” by Marlene Strang in collaboration with the performers
  • “Ten” by Rebecca Blair Price and Crystal Patient in collaboration with the performers
  • “Crescendo” by Jessica Blonde
  • “Heels” by Alicia-Lynn Nascimento-Castro
  • “Uncomfortability” by Turiya Chavez
  • “Radically Us” by Susannah Keita with improvisations by the cast 

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