Powerful testimonies take stage for dance concert
Story by Ashlee Larrison
Photos by Ralph Freso
GCU News Bureau
There is a bold resilience in the power of each person’s testimony.
And each of those individual testimonies culminate into a larger story of faith, perseverance and community – and more specifically the story of the College of Arts and Media’s Dance Department.
The department is bringing its final performance of the semester to life this week by showcasing six faculty pieces, one student piece and one piece choreographed by this semester’s guest residency artist. The concert, which debuted Tuesday evening, will be performed again at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and 2 p.m. Saturday in Grand Canyon University’s Ethington Theatre. (Here’s a slideshow.)
The concert theme, “Testimony,” is based on John 19:35:
The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe.
Dance Director Bekki Price said it goes hand in hand with the college’s new identity.
“I think with our new college name, our new leadership and our new direction, our college really wants to be better at telling our story,” she said. “Telling our story is one of those powerful ways we can connect both the past and future moving forward and transcend circumstances with remarkable resilience.
“This is our testimony. This is who we are.”
The eight pieces in the concert include a little bit of everything, from jazz to hip-hop. The list of performers includes a wide range, as well, from dance majors and minors to students outside the Dance Department who auditioned and were selected.
But one thing that radiates through each performance is the students’ talent.
“I’m super proud of the students who are involved in this production,” Price said. “It’s just a testament to the immense talent of the student body here at GCU.”
And the talent is integral to bringing each piece to life.
For her piece “Back in the day,” hip-hop instructor Niamey Thomas uses movement to share the Gospel. Twenty performers help bring to fruition the choreography, set to notable hip-hop tracks.
It’s one more way for people to get in touch with their spirituality.
“It’s the idea that it may not look the way we expect or the way we deem appropriate, but it is a way of sharing the Gospel, bringing others to Christ, and it’s a beautiful way that God uses to advance His Kingdom,” she said.
Thomas’ first college-level piece of choreography helped her experience the students’ talent and the love they put into each performance.
The chemistry of the performers on stage was a priority for her and makes the work that much better.
“I think the performers were able to feel seen. We all felt very comfortable dancing with one another, and I think that is like the biggest work that I am pleased with,” she said. “I know the love they felt and feel for one another because of the space that we had.”
The final piece, “… and walk” by guest artist Hannah Victoria Thomas, merges the concert’s theme with John 5:8 and Jesus’ command to “pick up your mat and walk.”
It allows Hannah and her performers to use their experiences to shape what they do.
“I just remember one of my friends awhile back asking if I was ashamed of my mat,” she said. “That’s basically my testimony. When Jesus told him to pick up his mat and walk, He didn’t just tell him to get up and go walk, He told him to pick up the things that have been the source of his infliction and to take it with you so ‘you can point others back to Me.’”
Having previously taught at GCU, she is no stranger to the Dance Department’s talent.
Having only three days to work with the students and put together the nine-minute piece was one of the most challenging things she’s ever experienced as an artist, but she said it is manageable with the right dancers – such as this group.
“The GCU dancers are so committed, so passionate, so talented, and as an artist those are the types of dancers and artists you want to work with,” she said. “No idea is too big. They were just so ready to work and give their all.”
The final concert of the academic year comes with the bittersweet goodbyes of seniors in the program.
Honors College student Kendall Smith, a dual major in film and dance, is one of those seniors. She won’t forget her time at GCU.
“I’m definitely going to miss knowing that I’ll have a dance show coming up, because after I graduate I’m sure I’ll perform in my future, but I won’t know when just yet,” she said. “This is a very special concert to me, and I plan on using it to remind myself of the hundreds and hundreds of shows I’ve been in when I was younger, and this will be a nice little bow to tie at the end of it.”
IF YOU GO
What: “Testimony” Spring Dance Concert
Where: Ethington Theatre
When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 20, and 2 p.m. Saturday, April 23
Information: Reserve your tickets online, in person at the Arena box office or by calling 602-639-8979
“she hears Him”
Choreographed by: Crystal Fullmer
Performed by: Wednesday, Kiera Boatman, Josie Filmore, Jenna Laplante, Joy Palmer, Megan Neese; Saturday, Andie Alsager, Johanna Loiseau, Mikaela Lures, Sarah Ross, Kylie Silves, Jaeda Bozich (understudy), Jordan Garrison (understudy)
Music: “Thunderstorm Serenade” by Songs from the Road Band, “Ain’t No Grave” by Crooked Still
Interview Text: Walter Tackett, Nadene Hawkins
Poem: “I’m With You, My Daughter” by Jackie Dummer
“The Ladies Who Brunch”
Choreographed by: Elijah Samuél Figueroa (undergraduate student)
Performed by: Caitlin Deely, Jordan Garrison, Sammi Lopresti, Megan Neese, Joy Palmer, Emma Watson
Music: “PS by The Books,” “Caravan” by Justin Hurwitz
Choreographed by: Bekki Price
Performed by: Sammi Lopresti, Neil Spooner, Emma Watson (understudy)
Music: Original composition by Ryan Ardelt
“Back in the day”
Choreographed by: Niamey Thomas
Assistant choreography by: Jonathan Montoya Gerardo, Elijah Samuél Figueroa
Performed by: Jaeda Bozich, Luis Castro, Caitlin Deely, Elijah Samuél Figueroa, Jordan Garrison, Jonathan Montoya Gerardo, Savannah Krey, Dominique Merrell, Abbey Nolan, Reyanna Ogas, Aliyah Padilla, Nayeli Pereyda, Sheryl Powell, Mackenzie Reggia, Hannah Robertson, Jazmin Runnels, Nyara Seymore, Sofia Stanek, Jael Vickery, Rosalind Willians, Bethany Shmidt (understudy)
Music: “Back in the Day” by Ahmad Lewis, “Lottery” by K CAMP, “Oh Sheila” by Ready for the World, “Ultra Light Beam” by Kayne West, “No Problem” by Chance the Rapper, “Revolution” by Kirk Franklin, “True Love” by Wizkid, “Whole Lotta Money” by Bia, “Brave” by Dynamite, “Motownphilly” by Boyz II Men, “Stomp” by Kirk Franklin
Mixed by: Dj Mic Maven
“RESIST the NOISE”
Choreographed by: Angelica DeLashmette in collaboration with performers
Performed by: Kiera Boatman, Hailey Boggs, Elijah Samuél Figueroa, Jordan Garrison, Jonathan Montoya Gerardo, Joslyn Monthei, Aliyah Padilla, Joy Palmer, Sheryl Powell, Luci Suckert, Jael Vickery
Music: “Reyja” by Ben Frost and Daniel Bjarnason, “Cloud” by Da Africa Deep and Lyrik Shoxen
“(dis) CONNECT (ion)”
Choreographed by: Tiffany Fox
Performed by: Hailey Boggs, Hannah Early, Josie Filmore, Trinity Gracia, Savannah Hale, Sammi Lopresti, Madeline Lynch, Taylin Muth, Joy Palmer, Abigail Rogalski, Kylie Silves, Kendall Smith, Emma Watson, Luis Castro (understudy)
Music: Original composition by Ryan Ardelt
“Wrapped & Unraveled Part 2”
Choreographed by: Rebecca Witt in collaboration with the dancers
Performed by: Kiera Boatman, Caitlin Deely, Elijah Samuél Figueroa, Grace Glass, Joslyn Monthei, Megan Neese, Cortnee Porras, Sarah Ross
Music: “Buddy, Can I Sleep in Your Arms” by Willie Nelson
“… and walk”
Choreographed by: Hannah Victoria Thomas
Performed by: Anna Alber, Kiera Boatman, Caitlin Deely, Jessica Espinoza, Elijah Samuél Figueroa, Savannah Hale, Johanna Loiseau, Sammi Lopresti, Joslyn Monthei, Joy Palmer, Neil Spooner, Jael Vickery, Emma Watson, Josie Filmore (understudy), Jenna Laplante (understudy), Cortnee Porras (understudy), Abigail Rogalski (understudy)
Music: Grow – “A COLORS ENCORE” by Facesoul, “Savior” by IAMNOBODI
Contact Ashlee Larrison at (602) 639-8488 or [email protected].