Jesters, ballet, hip-hop intertwine in year-end dance concert

College of Arts and Media dance students will open "Intertwine," the final dance concert of the academic year, with "Rise Up." The work is choreographed by guest artist Durell Comedy.

Photos by Ralph Freso / Slideshow

Grand Canyon University dance instructor Holly Brosius has never intertwined her personal and work life in quite the way she has for the Spring Dance Concert.

Her work, “Doblemente Excepcionales” (or “Twice Exceptional”), is inspired by her twice-exceptional son, who is gifted but expresses his gifts while overcoming challenges with autism spectrum disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and sensory issues.

“He’s really, really smart, but he also sees the world and learns the world much differently than other people,” said Brosius during rehearsals earlier this week at Ethington Theatre for the GCU Dance Department's final show of the academic year, to be performed at 7:30 p.m. today and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday.

"Doblemente Excepcionales," by dance faculty Holly Brosius, was inspired by her son.

“He builds a lot of things – he’s got an engineering brain – so I kind of used all of his shapes in the things that he builds, using different items as inspiration,” Brosius said.

In creating a piece for the concert, titled “Intertwine,” Brosius wanted to weave that part of her life into her work life, something she’s never done before, she said.

She also meshed together other concepts: the Christian perspective of how God provides, the lifeline of people intertwined in our lives, and the strength she finds in her son, who has been an integral part of her journey.

“You know, God picked us to be their moms,” she said of herself and other moms of children with neurodiversities who have embraced that role.

A dancer performs in Tiffany Fox's "Life Goes On."

Another exceptional thing woven into her choreographed work is not only dance but animation.

The department collaborated with the College of Arts and Media’s digital design program, which is enhancing some of the concert pieces with original animation.

“Doblemente Excepcionales” is just one of 10 works choreographed largely by faculty and guest artists that will get the spotlight in “Intertwine.”

The dance styles will run the gamut, said Director of Dance Dr. Bekki Price, from modern to postmodern to hip-hop and ballet.

“And we have everything in between. This is one of the most diverse shows we’ve seen,” Price said of the concert, which touts some 80 students involved in its production.

Price is particularly excited about the opening work by guest artist Durell Comedy called “Rise Up,” a contemporary work with a New York modern feel.

"Intertwine," said Dance Director Dr. Bekki Price, will weave a tale of "overcoming fears, finding confidence and celebrating our unique gifts from God."

In it, a packed stage of dancers move in different circles, then zip across stage in chaotic fashion. At one point, one dancer runs right up to another dancer, invading her space.

Comedy said of the work, “It’s the reality that we face today that the people of God, the church, the bride of Christ, has allowed sin, circumstances and preferences to cause us to be in this constant state of sleep, not aware of, nor passionate about, the return of Christ.

“This work is a reminder that His resurrection and return is a source of hope for all.

Comedy based the work on Ephesians 5:14:

"Wake up, sleeper,
Rise from the dead,
And Christ will shine on you.”

Dance students perform "Fangled Table" by guest artist Vo Vera.

“It’s a great start to the show,” said Price of the work, one of two by guest artists. The other is Vo Vera’s “Fangled Table,” which explores various street dance techniques.

Stage manager Stephanie Name said she’s drawn to the dance “It’s Eagle!” by Rebecca Witt, a visual assault of different movements and textures.

“It definitely has a lot of points that seem more chaotic, like some dancers are doing one movement and other dancers are doing a different one. But they’re both intertwined so that at some points, they’re doing the exact same movement. Then it shifts into a different feel of a dance being slower.”

Rebecca Witt-choreographed "It's Eagle" is one of the 10 dances featured in the concert.

Senior dance student Jonathan Montoya Gerardo, who’s performing in “It’s Eagle!” said he’s fascinated with the work because Witt has let the students push their boundaries and athleticism.

“That’s what I really enjoy when I’m dancing; it’s pushing creative expectations of how movement should look like.”

Jesters and ballet dancers clash in dance faculty Crystal Fullmer's comedic ballet "Let Ballets Drole."

Another of Name’s favorite works in the show is “Les Ballets Drole” (“The Funny Ballets”), choreographed by Crystal Fullmer.

It’s an amalgam of graceful ballet dancers, though dressed in humorous, saucer-like ballet skirts, who are in a battle for attention with a gaggle of jesters.

For her piece, “Worlds on Fire,” Naimey Thomas said she wanted to create a hip-hop/street dance about how we’re all connected in our struggles.

Niamey Thomas' "Worlds on Fire" combines elements of hip-hop and street dance.

“The piece is about the world being on fire, hectic and crazy, whether it be the inner world or not, and then, at the end, finding the hope that’s there, because there’s always hope."

For her, intertwine means how people in community are intertwined with one another and, because of that, we never suffer long.

“Jesus is returning, so there’s hope in that,” Thomas said. “But there’s also hope in community.”

This weekend’s dance showcase will mark the last performance for 11 senior dance students, including Montoya Gerardo, who will cap his undergraduate studies in a big way.

Dance Director Dr. Bekki Price choreographed "Inosculation."

His concert entry, “The Dream (1910),” is the only student-choreographed work in the show.

When auditioning earlier this year for the Spotlight Dance Concert, which shines a light on student-choreographed pieces, dance faculty “enjoyed it enough that they thought it would be at the level to be in the faculty show … so I’m privileged to be here,” said Montoya Gerardo.

The piece was inspired by one of artist Henri Rousseau’s 25 jungle paintings.

“My goal was to take this two-dimensional painting and just bring it to life,” he said.

The dance is a modern work that leans into the José Limón technique and also was inspired by dancer/choreographer Alvin Ailey.

"Life Goes On" features choreography by dance faculty Tiffany Fox.

This last dance showcase of the year has a special meaning for Montoya Gerardo, and not just because his dance is in the show.

“Senior-wise it’s really special for our class because we started our journey here in 2020 during COVID, so for our freshman year, we were all still in masks,” he said, and performing on an outdoor stage. “… But going from there to being on stage with everyone once again, it’s been really an emotional process.”

And the Ethington Dance Ensemble hopes this final show of the year will be an emotional process for the audience, too.

Manger of Internal Communications Lana Sweeten-Shults can be reached at [email protected] or at 602-639-7901.

***

IF YOU GO:

What: The Spring Dance Concert, “Intertwine”

Where: Ethington Theatre

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

Tickets: Click here or call 602-639-8979

***

WORKS TO BE PERFORMED

“Rise Up” by guest artist Durell Comedy

“The Dream (1910)” by senior dance student Jonathan Montoya Gerardo

“Shadow” by dance faculty Angelica Delashmette in collaboration with the dancers

“Les Ballets Drole” by dance faculty Crystal Fuller

“Fangled Table” by guest artist Vo Vera in collaboration with the dancers

“It’s Eagle!” by dance faculty Rebecca Witt

“Doblemente Excepcionales” by dance faculty Holly Brosius

“Life Goes On” by dance faculty Tiffany Fox

“Inosculation” by Dance Director Dr. Bekki Price

“Worlds on Fire” by dance faculty Niamey Thomas

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GCU Magazine

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