Raw beauty of dance 'Uncovered' at concert

Students perform in the Ethington Dance Ensemble's Winter Dance Concert in 2017. (File photo by Kaitlyn Terrey)

By Lana Sweeten-Shults
GCU News Bureau

Humans have a tendency to cover up.

With shawls and coats and jackets.

Various dance genres will be performed. (File photo by Jenny Gerena)

Hats and sunglasses and sunscreen.

With makeup.

And little white lies.

But Grand Canyon University’s dance department will shed the cover-ups for its Winter Dance Concert, “Uncovered.”

The concert, to be presented by the Ethington Dance Ensemble at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at Ethington Theatre, “will expose the raw beauty of dance,” College of Fine Arts and Production Dance Director Susannah Keita writes in her program notes.

The idea is to expose all sides of the human experience -- the dances in the show converged around the theme of being uncovered but diverged stylistically and in artistic interpretation.

It's what almost 50 dancers and 10 choreographers will do, taking the audience through 11 dances that will span emotions and styles and, as Keita said, the human experience.

Work on the Winter Dance Concert started even before the semester started.

Ten choreographers and about 50 dance students worked on the pieces that will come to life on the Ethington stage. (File photo by Kaitlyn Terrey)

For the first time, the department organized a presemester residency with Miguel Perez, who worked with students on technique and artistry and also choreographed a piece called “The Novel” for the concert.

“I had some stuff I already had in my head – my ideas,” Perez said in August, when he was on campus for the residency. “People think it takes four or five full days (to create a new piece), but it was a total of 12 hours."

He added, “The piece represents when you go through life being visible, but along the way, people shift that perspective of yourself. You get a little bit lost.”

The work will spotlight a dancer breaking out of her old self, then being manipulated and taken in different directions before going back to being herself and realizing: “That is enough,” Perez said.

“It’s a very contemporary piece. We expect it will be a crowd-pleaser. His movement is very dynamic – a lot of partnering,” Keita said, and because the performers will wear socks – a trend away from modern dancers to go barefoot – “there’s an oozy quality to it.”

Eleven dances will be performed for the Winter Dance Concert. (File photo by Kaitlyn Terrey)

Yet, she added, it’s also a complex, layered piece by the choreographer, who has worked with Celine Dion, Donnie and Marie Osmond, and Cirque du Soleil in his career.

The other guest artist, Yvonne Montoya, turned in a piece that Keita said is quite a contrast. Montoya worked with 17 seniors in the program, some of whom are dancing on the Ethington stage for the final time. She brainstormed with them to come up with “Uprooted,” performed to Aztral Folk’s “Chakravartin.”

“It’s sculptural, in a sense, with very clear floor patterns and precise lines,” Keita said.

The Arizona Republic in November recognized Tucson-based Montoya on the Who’s Next in Arts List.

“Uprooted” expresses something different for each dancer, Keita writes in her program notes, as they try to figure out not only where they are going but where they came from.

Keita knew she wanted to work with GCU dance faculty choreographer Leanne Schmidt, known for her comedic improvisational work, after hearing the songs "Scissors, Paper, Stone" by Skeewiff and Stephen Gray, and "Black Venom" by The Budos Band. 

“I thought, ‘This would be so fun to do a piece to,’” said Keita. “The music sounds kind of sneaky, like there’s some sort of undercover detective. … There’s all sorts of shenanigans.”

In faculty choreographer Alicia Nascimento’s “Resistance and Solidarity,” performed to “Serendipity March” by Kangding Ray, “The Prevailing Wind” by Yasume and “Data.Matrix” by Ryoji Ikeda, dancers will look as if they’re walking on the wall.

The theme of this weekend concert is "Uncovered." (File photo by Kaitlyn Terrey)

“It’s extremely physical,” Keita said. “It’s for anybody that loves to see dancers do something that seems physically impossible.”

A cast of 20 dancers will bring to the stage dance faculty Angel Crissman’s piece, “increased exponentially.” What’s neat about the work is it emulates the infinity illusion, where an infinite number of the same image is infinitely repeated through the use of mirrors.

Keita added, “We have a beautiful ballet work, as usual,” by GCU dance instructor Scott Martin, who is choreographing two pieces for the show. There’s also a piece by faculty dance instructor Molly Schenck, which Schenck said “explores our hard-wired need to fight, to flee, to freeze and to fold.”

Other works to be performed will include faculty choreographers Rebecca Blair Price’s “Pedestal” and Kevin Godfrey’s “Preludes" and "Colony."

Contact GCU senior writer Lana Sweeten-Shults at [email protected] or at 602-639-7901.


What: “Uncovered,” the Winter Dance Concert

Where: Ethington Theatre

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

Tickets: $12. Can be purchased and reserved through Ethington Theatre Box Office. General admission also can be purchased online here. Discounted tickets are available for seniors, military, GCU and GCE employees, GCU alumni, children 12 years and younger and GCU students.

Information: 602-639-8880 or [email protected]


Related content:

GCU Today: "Guest artist keeps GCU dance on its toes"


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