University Dance Company Fall Concert Showcases Feminine Strength

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Athleticism and Artistry Combine November 14 through 17 at Murphy Hall

The University Dance Company’s Fall Concert explores themes of feminine strength, cultural identity, and gun culture in six original and innovative works choreographed by University of Kansas Department of Theatre & Dance faculty and guest artists. Projections, spoken word, and dance styles ranging from ballet to modern contemporary to hip hop will be featured.

Associate Professor James Moreno’s work, Land, was inspired by the ways people and societies claim a piece of land, as well as the way people land on a place in which they can thrive. This version was developed from Moreno’s work that he presented this October as part of KU Dance’s Chicago Career Week.

“Our students have been working so hard to energize and even shape the meaning of these new works,” said Moreno, who also serves as the Department’s Dance Studies Coordinator. “As a pre-professional dance company, these dancers are exposed to performance techniques and choreographic approaches designed to propel them to the professional level. This concert is unusual in two ways: it features two guest artists who set work on our student dancers and marks UDC’s return to the Crafton-Preyer Theatre stage in Murphy Hall for the first time in 27 years. It will be an excellent and memorable night of dance. We hope the community is as excited as we are.”

The concert’s finale features contemporary choreography by the Department’s Fall 2019 Choreographic Fellow Rebecca Bryant, a professor of dance at California State University, Long Beach. Students will perform her work ASKQUESTIONSLATER: two of countless scenarios, which examines gun culture and America’s complicated relationship with guns. “Through my work, I am helping people notice how they feel about certain issues. My work asks us ‘what am I assuming as I move through the world,’” she said. “For such a tough subject matter, people might be surprised about the works’ unexpected moments of lightness.” Bryant was in residence with the KU dance program earlier this fall. Her work at KU is supported by the Janet Hamburg Visiting Artist Fund.

The concert also features work by guest artist Enid Smith, a professional choreographer living and working in Chicago. She set her work, Roam, on students who performed it at Chicago Career Week during KU’s Fall Break. Roam is being restaged with the same cast for UDC’s evening of dance. Audiences should expect movements inspired by everyday life and common environments “mingling into something more, much as dust and sunlight creates a beautiful whirlwind,” Smith said.

Professor Michelle Heffner Hayes premieres Voices, inspired by motherhood, environmentalism, economic survival, and human rights abuses. It was created in dialogue with powerful music by Tanya Tagaq and Lido Pimienta, two different indigenous artists based in Canada who employ art as a catalyst for social change.

Associate Professor Jerel Hilding’s work Venatores is based on the tale of Diana (Artemis in Greek mythology) and Actaeon. He sees her bathing, recognizes her beauty, and pays the ultimate price by being transformed into a deer in this ballet that features women as victorious huntresses.

It Takes a Village by KU Dance Lecturer Maya Tillman-Rayton is an up-tempo, ensemble piece. Her hip hop choreography is inspired by the all-female Umoja Tribe in Kenya, which left patriarchal society – and sometimes physical violence and child marriage – to form its own society and traditions.

Tickets are on sale at the box office in Murphy Hall, by calling 785-864-3982, or online at Ticket prices: Adults, $25; senior citizens and KU faculty/staff, $20; and children, $10. KU student tickets are $10 in advance and $15 at the door.

The University Dance Company’s Fall Concert is supported by KU Student Senate. The University Dance Company is a production wing of the Department of Theatre & Dance at the University of Kansas. The Department of Theatre & Dance is one of three departments in the School of the Arts. As part of the KU College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, the School of the Arts offers fresh possibilities for collaboration between the arts and the humanities, sciences, social sciences, international and interdisciplinary studies. For more information about the Department of Theatre & Dance, visit

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