Students' dance concert returns to indoor setting

By Ashlee Larrison
GCU News Bureau 

What do the Dance Department’s Student Spotlight Concerts have in common with peanut butter and jelly?

They're a match made in heaven.

This week's Student Spotlight Dance Concerts will feature two pieces by Elijah Figueroa, who choreographed this performance in March 2020, just before the pandemic.

For the first time since the pandemic began, the student-led Fall Student Spotlight  Concert will return to Grand Canyon University's Thunderground at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday.

Although their performances on an outdoor stage in the last two semesters hold a special place in their heart, the dancers are eager to get back indoors and have their choreography adjudicated in person.

“It was a lot of fun being outside on the Quad," Director of Dance Bekki Price said, "but we didn’t have any opportunities for the students to really think about lighting, which is an important production element in dance,” she said. “It will be exciting for them to have that opportunity again.”

One piece of the outdoor performances lives on: Students can submit dance films. The concert will include 11 live performances and one film, all choreographed and performed by students.

It’s a sight that will never stop impressing Price.

“We have students involved with this show from freshmen all the way up to seniors, and I’m just impressed by all the choreographic talent of our student body,” she said. “They have such strong, creative points of view, and it’s really unique to get to have the opportunities that GCU provides for our students to showcase that creative process.”

Most of the pieces are post-modern contemporary, and there is one Latin ballroom piece. A variety of emotions and messages will be on display.

This piece, from the Fall 2019 Student Spotlight Concert, highlights the type of unique choreography that can be seen at this week's shows.

Sophomore Sammi Lopresti choreographed her own piece, “This is no laughing matter,” and will perform in five of her peers’ pieces. Having only performed outdoors at GCU, Lopresti said she is "super excited for the new experience.”

Lopresti describes her piece as being more on the "theatrical side," and, despite the title, she hopes it will make the audience laugh. She doesn’t take this opportunity for granted.

“It (the concert) really gives the students their own voice in choreography,” she said. “I mean, we love doing the ensemble shows that are choreographed by our professors, but this really gives us a chance to express our own creative and artistic preferences.

“It’s just a really good opportunity to share that with GCU.”

Sophomore Kenzie Brandon choreographed the lone film, “Stages,” for the concert. The piece will take audiences through the five stages of grief.

She said she made it a dance film because it's easier to understand in the video format.

“I’ve always been really inspired by filming,” Brandon said. “I’m very interested in student solo work and more conceptual things, and I feel like I was able to delve into that a little better with film through the use of angles, shots and different dancers.”

Like Lopresti, Brandon is excited to see what an audience in Thunderground adds to the overall atmosphere of the show. She considers it the perfect opportunity for art connoisseurs to see what GCU's dance students have to offer.

“If you enjoy seeing what students can create without restriction, then you should come see Spotlight,” she said.



Trial #77

Choreographer: Caitlin Deely

Performed by: Olivia Boatwright, Elijah Samuél Figueroa, Trinity Gracia, Savannah Hale, Janessa Hill, Johanna Loiseau, Sammi Lopresti, Megan Neese, Joy Palmer, Cortnee Porras, Kylie Silves

Music: “1977" by Ana Tijoux

It Is Finished

Choreographer: Johanna Loiseau

Performed by: Gabriana Barragan, Savannah Hale, James Lantz, Taylin Muth, Megan Neese, Joy Palmer

Music: Umngani Wami (feat. Babes Wodumo) [Remix] by Funky Qla


Choreographer: Joy Palmer

Performed by: Elijah Samuél Figueroa, Savannah Hale, James Lantz, Johanna Loiseau, Megan Neese

Music: Icon by COBRAH

Stages (Dance Film)

Choreographer: Kenzie Brandon

Performed by: Olivia Boatright, Brianna Buffelen, Jonathan Montoya-Gerardo, Jenna Laplante Mikaela Lures

Music: Cold by Jorge Mendez

How to be a Latin Lover

Choreographer: Elijah Samuél Figueroa

Performed by: Gabriana Barragan, Caitlin Deely, Elijah Samuél Figueroa, Savannah Hale, Janessa Hill, James Lantz, Johanna Loiseau, Megan Neese, Joy Palmer, Emma Watson

Music: Gasolina by Daddy Yankee, Yo Quiero by Gente De Zona and Pitbull

Come here! I have to tell you something.

Choreographer: Sarah Ross

Performed by: Olivia Boatright, Jaeda Bozich, Jessica Espinoza, Taylin Muth, Abi Rogalski, Kylie Silves

Music: Faidherbe Square by ProleteR

This is no laughing matter

Choreographer: Sammi Lopresti

Performed by: Caitlin Deely, Savannah Hale, Johanna Loiseau, Megan Neese

Music: Milord by Edith Piaf

Hey ü, Stop Here

Choreographer: Janessa Hill 

Dancers: Elijah Samuél Figueroa, Savannah Hale, James Lantz, Sammi Lopresti, Megan Neese, Joy Palmer, Kylie Silves, Emma Watson

Music: Pie XI-SUUNS 


Choreographer: Trinity Gracia

Performed by: Megan Bleecker, Caitlin Deely, Janessa Hill, Johanna Loiseau, Sammi Lopresti, Megan Neese, Joy Palmer, Cortnee Porras, Kylie Silves

Music: A Baru in New York by Flume

The horse ran past the barn fell

Choreographer: Elijah Samuél Figueroa

Performed by: Janessa Hill, James Lantz, Johanna Loiseau, Sammi Lopresti, Megan Neese, Joy Palmer, Emma Watson

Music: Prelude, Fugue And Riffs For Clarinet And Jazz Ensemble: 3. Riffs (For Everyone) - Live by Leonard Bernstein, Peter Schmidl, and Wiener Philharmoniker


Choreographer: Cortnee Porras

Performed by: Kiera Boatman, Olivia Boatright, Caitlin Deely, Savannah Hale, Joslyn Monthei, Jedidiah Okerlund, Kylie Silves

Music: A Sparrow Alighted Upon Our Shoulder by Johann Johannsson

right outside the door is gravel

Choreographer: James Lantz

Performed by: Elijah Samuél Figueroa, Janessa Hill, James Lantz, Johanna Loiseau, Sammi Lopresti, Megan Neese, Joy Palmer, Emma Watson

Music: “New York 93” (Baba Stiltz Remix) by Yaeji

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


Related content:

GCU Today: Guest residency artist brings together dance, faith

GCU Today: Ethington season welcomes audiences back indoors


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