'Rooted' Winter Dance Concert is set to blossom

Story by Ashlee Larrison
Photos courtesy of Tim Trumble Photo
GCU News Bureau

There is no lack of excitement in Grand Canyon University's College of Fine Arts and Production as the dance students prepare to take to the stage for their first faculty dance concert since the pandemic began.

Debuting at 8 p.m. Friday on the outdoor stage next to the Fine Arts Building, the "Rooted" Winter Dance Concert will have performances through Sunday and will be livestreamed on YouTube. Masks and social distancing will be utilized by the performers to assist in combating COVID-19.

The Winter Dance Concert will be the dancers' first faculty concert since the pandemic began.

The “Rooted” theme, Dance Director Susannah Keita said, can be interpreted as a continuation of the department’s second concert, “Roots of Paradise.” But it also highlights the growth of the department and its students since then.

“I think there’s always going to be echoes,” Keita said of the show. “I feel those echoes. For one thing, with college students, they’re constantly starting the whole discovery process about themselves over again, and it’s important that they understand how they’re rooted and how they can always count on the values that they most cherish and find their roots.”

The concert showcases eight pieces that will allow dancers and audiences alike to reflect on what has sustained them after months of physical separation. In addition to the live performances, six additional dance videos will be made available on the GCU YouTube channel showcasing student choreographed works.

Guest artists Heather Beal, based at St. Louis Black Repertory Theatre, and Angel Crissman, a beloved former faculty member at GCU, add to the element of reflection within the lineup as well.

The performance will take place on COFAP's outdoor stage.

To Keita, having the ability to have a show is reason enough to celebrate.

“That fact that we could produce this in the middle of a pandemic is also really important to the dancers,” she said.

After the sudden cancellation of the Spring Dance Concert earlier this year, students in the dance program are more than ready to get back on stage doing what they love.

“It definitely was difficult when we ended the semester so abruptly last year, but I think our teachers and faculty handled it very well,” senior Jillian Nelson said. “I still cannot believe that they were able to make this (the dance concert) happen because it’s incredible with what they’ve been doing."

Nelson added that she hopes the livestream will introduce new audiences to the performance art being showcased. Those audiences can expect a wide range of emotions.

Proper precautions were taken to protect the performers from COVID.

“They are going to be taken on a ride for sure, highs and lows,” Keita said. “I’d say that this is a concert that takes on the discomfort, the sense of confusion sometimes, the desire to find your roots and an escapist approach.”

In a sense, the performance can be viewed as emblematic of the prosperity of the arts and Keita’s pride in her dancers.

“I’m grateful for the students looking at the potential to share their message, share their love of dance and performing with an audience in this time,” Keita said. “We’re going to get through this, just take it day by day and understand that everything is temporary. This is going to build you up and make you stronger.”

Contact Ashlee Larrison at (602) 639-8488 or [email protected]



What: “Rooted” Winter Dance Concert

When: 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 11, through Sunday, Dec. 13

Where: Outdoor stage next to Fine Arts Building

Tickets: This show is a closed production for GCE and GCU employees, students and faculty members. It can be viewed via livestream on YouTube.

Information: 602-639-8800 or [email protected]



a scream, a cry, a prayer, a hope

  • Choreographer: Kevin Godfrey-Chevalier
  • Music: "The Light by Album Leaf," "Show Me Love by Waters," "Requiem for the Static King," "Pt I by A Winged Victory for the Sullen"
  • Text: Written by Kevin Godfrey, inspired by dancers
  • Dancers: Cassandra McGehee, Destiny Magee, Ellie Sheldon, Hailey Boggs, James Lantz, Megan Neese, Sarah Beebe, Savannah Hale, Hannah Ahr, Treva Stotts
  • Understudy: Cortnee Porras, Kassidy Powell

Entire Tea

  • Choreographer: Susannah Keita
  • Music: "Utopia and Visions" by Don Cherry, "Asiko" (In A Silent Mix) (Motor City Drum Ensemble Remix) by Tony Allen
  • Dancers: Destiny Magee, Hailey Boggs, Janessa Hill, Jillian Nelson, Joanna Aguirre, Myia Oliver, Sarah Ross, Savannah Hale, Trinity Gracia, Kyla Johnston

The Time Is Now

  • Choreographer: Halley Willcox and dancers
  • Music: "Chiba Days" by Gold Panda; untitled original score by Aquilles Holladay
  • Dancers: Friday/Saturday- Alysa Sandoval, Caitlin Deely, Cortnee Porras, Megan Neese, Trinity Gracia, Treva Stotts; Sunday: Emma Watson, Evelyn Rossman, Joy Palmer, Zoe de Neve, Trinity Gracia, Megan Neese; Understudy: Jessica Espinoza

We Wear Our Crowns

  • Choreographer: Heather Beal
  • Music: "Tomboy" by Princess Nokia, "***Flawless" (feat. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie) by Beyonce, "My Power" by Beyonce, Nija, Busiswa, Yemi Alade, Tierra Whack, Moonchild Sanelly and DJ Lag, "Petricor" by Ludovico Einaudi and Daniel Hope, "Soweto Funk" (original mix) by Black People
  • Dancers: Cassandra McGehee, Destiny Magee, Janessa Hill, Jillian Nelson, Savannah Hale, Hannah Ahr, Antonette Fleming (Class of 2020)

What Freedom

  • Choreographer: Alicia Nascimento
  • Music: "Dance for Me Wallis" composed by Abel Korzeniowski (Published by French Beauty Publishing (BMI), Performed by the English Session Orchestra, Courtesy of W.E. Commissioning Company Limited), "Amazing Grace" by The Acapella Company
  • Dancers: Cassandra McGehee, Destiny Magee, Ellie Sheldon, Hannah Ahr, Megan Neese, Joanna Aguirre, Sarah Beebe, James Lantz, Janessa Hill, Savannah Hale, Caitlin Deely; Understudy: Jonathon Gerardo Montoya

Adapt. React. Readapt. Apt.

  • Choreographer: Rebecca Blair Price in collaboration with the dancers
  • Music: Original composition by Robin Vining
  • Dancers: Ellie Sheldon, Jillian Nelson, Joy Palmer, Sarah Beebe, Zoe de Neve; Understudy: Kylie Silves


  • Choreographer: Jessica Blonde
  • Music: "Concerto for 2 Pianos" (No. 10) in E-Flat, "K. 365: II. Andante" by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
  • Dancers: Friday/Saturday: Amber Bennett, Johanna Loiseau, Kylie Silves, Emma Watson; Sunday: Olivia Boatright, Zoë Hunter, Kyla Johnston, Kendall Smith


  • Choreographer: Angel Crissman
  • Music: "Fold" by Wikerbird, "Looking Through," composed and performed by Jonathon Crissman
  • Dancers: Allison Ross, Alysa Sandoval, Cassandra McGehee, Destiny Magee, Ellie Sheldon, Hannah Bridgeo, James Lantz, Jillian Nelson, Joanna Aguirre, Kassidy Powell, Leidy Ruelas, Maddie Brinker, Sarah Beebe, Sarah Elliott, Tyler Curry


(Will be screened at 7:30 p.m. Friday on the Grand Canyon University YouTube Channel)


  • Choreographer: Molly W. Schenck, faculty, in collaboration with ensemble
  • Sound Design: Molly W. Schenck
  • Dancers: Allison Ross, Cassandra McGehee, Ellie Sheldon, Hannah Bridgeo, Jillian Nelson, Joanna Aguirre, Kassidy Powell, Sarah Beebe, Sarah Ross, Zoë Hunter, Hannah Ahr

Creating in the Shadows

  • Choreographer and Dancer: Zoë Hunter, undergraduate student
  • Filming and editing by: Zoë Hunter, Annaliese Hunter, Julianna Hunter, Melissa Hunter, Zebastyn Getrost
  • Music: "Dance Drums" by Tribal Music

Brought to Light

  • Choreographer and Dancer: Lydia MacDonald, undergraduate student
  • Filming and editing by: Lydia MacDonald
  • Music: "Echad Mi Yodea" by Ohad Naharin, "This Place Was a Shelter" by Olafur Arnalds, "Elegy for the Arctic" by Ludovico Einaudi

An Act of Departure

  • Choreographer and Dancer: Jillian Nelson, undergraduate student
  • Filming and editing by: Kendall Smith
  • Music: "Fac 21" by Stars of the Lid, "Hair" by Devonte Hynes

Everseeking Ethereal Dreams

  • Choreographer: Trinity Gracia, undergraduate student
  • Filming and editing by: Trinity Gracia
  • Music: "13 angels standing guard round the side of your bed" by Silver Mt. Zion
  • Dancers: Caitlin Deely, Destiny Magee, Ellie Sheldon, Hailey Boggs, Joy Palmer, Megan Neese, Savannah Hale

The Time Is Now

  • Choreographer: Halley Willcox, faculty
  • Music: "Chiba Days" by Gold Panda; untitled original score by Aquilles Holladay
  • Dancers: Alysa Sandoval, Caitlin Deely, Cortnee Porras, Megan Neese, Trinity Gracia, Treva Stotts, Emma Watson, Evelyn Rossman, Joy Palmer, Zoe de Neve
  • Understudy: Jessica Espinoza


Related content:

GCU Today: Dance moves outside with live performances, films

GCU Today: GCU dance community finds a way to keep creating

GCU Today: Dance alumni find support in Zoom meet-ups

GCU Today: Audiences give outdoor stage positive reviews



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