Guest residency artist brings together dance, faith
By Ashlee Larrison
GCU News Bureau
There are many things that impressed this semester’s dance residency artist, Greta Sugai, after she worked alongside Grand Canyon University students last week.
They are open to multiple forms of movement.
Each student interprets that movement differently.
Most importantly, they are willing to learn.
Having traveled from her home state of Colorado to Phoenix, Sugai brought her impressive background in worship and dance to GCU for her four-day residency on campus. The Director of Messengerz Dance Company, an organization striving to achieve dance excellence while also sending out a positive, faith-based message, was struck by the skill and professionalism she saw in the College of Fine Arts and Production.
“I realized while teaching my improv class that a lot of students, here specifically, have that ability to just make things their own,” she said. “Everyone is so willing to try anything that I feel like the students here are really good about just taking on anything.”
Even though it was her first time on campus, it was not the first time Sugai crossed paths with the talent coming out of the GCU dance program. Before the pandemic swept the globe in early 2020, GCU dance graduate Hannah Croft was scheduled to travel to Auckland, New Zealand, with Messengerz to participate in an Easter camp. Sugai also has worked with other GCU alumni in her company.
Sugai’s background of intertwining faith and dance made her an obvious residency choice Dance Director Bekki Price.
“The thing I was most excited about is who Greta is and her company as well. I think it really aligns well with Grand Canyon University,” Price said. “A lot of people don’t think of dance as missional, so I love what she is bringing into the program.
“With the guest artist residencies, I always like to add to what our program already has. Bringing in artists from all over the country who have worked all over the world and have different backgrounds and different experiences really helps open the students’ eyes up to the different possibilities that they have.”
In addition to opening students’ eyes to the world of possibilities that await after graduating, Sugai also choreographed a senior piece for “Emerge,” the Winter Dance Concert.
Set to the song “Saturn” by the Illinois band Sleeping At Last, Sugai tells the story of a person going through a traumatic time in their life and the journey to overcome the struggles.
“I felt, just looking at last year, I needed that a lot – knowing that it was going to be OK,” Sugai said.
It was a piece that resonated just as much with its performers.
Senior Megan Neese, a dance education major, was captivated by Sugai’s ability to tell a story through movement.
“I feel like recently I haven’t had a lot of opportunities to do the story telling style of dance,” she said. “I feel like dance is always a really nice outlet to get stuff out and express yourself.”
As for the opportunity to work with Sugai, Neese said it was an all-around enjoyable experience.
“It’s been really nice being able to take her movement but then make it something that is impactful and meaningful to you,” she said. “It’s just been really awesome.”
Contact Ashlee Larrison at (602) 639-8488 or [email protected]