University Dance Company Performs April 5-7, with Kansas City Aerial Arts

In the University Dance Company Spring Concert, students and choreographers examine the ideas of world-building, connection, and suspense through the artform. Ballet, contemporary, hip hop, and jazz dance styles provide uplift and entertainment in this repertoire concert.

Special guest Kansas City Aerial Arts will have patrons on the edge of their seats with a high-flying hybrid aerial/dance work, which was choreographed and directed by Meghan Spencer. Faculty choreographers Maya Tillman-Rayton, Claire Buss, and Ashley Brittingham will be featured, along with a piece by recent KU Dance alum Olivia Pennell. Additionally, the Jayhawk Tap Co will present two works. In total, over 50 students will perform, with many more assisting behind the scenes.

The concert is April 5 and 6 at 7:30pm and April 7 at 2:30pm in the Crafton-Preyer Theatre at Murphy Hall. Tickets are available for purchase at Spring Dance Concert, by calling 785-864-3982, or in-person at the box office in Murphy Hall (M-F noon-5pm). Additionally, the April 5 and 7 performances will be available via livestream..

“This concert is certainly a highlight of the spring term in the Department of Theatre & Dance and highly anticipated by our greater dance ‘family.’ We invite those who are new to attending live dance performances to check us out,” said Tillman-Rayton, University Dance Company Concert producer and KU Lecturer. “This semester’s concert carries on our commitment to producing forward-thinking works and to providing pre-professional performance opportunities for Jayhawks.”

Kansas City Aerial Arts is an aerial arts education and entertainment company that nurtures a sense of empowerment and wonder through aerial arts since 2013. Its mission is to make the joy of the circus accessible to everyone. The company hosts performances that are open to the public, in addition to private parties and training opportunities for all ages. Spencer, KC Aerial Arts’ Education Director and performer, has created, choreographed, and directed the piece Life Like Water for this UDC concert. The company’s participation in the Concert is made possible in part by the Janet Hamburg Visiting Artist Fund.

Brittingham is a full-time lecturer and interim co-director of dance in the Department. As a professional dancer, she has performed a wide variety of classical and contemporary principal roles by the world's leading choreographers. For the past four years, she has set her original choreographic work on the University Dance Company.

Tillman-Rayton is in her seventh year teaching Hip Hop technique and second year as a full-time lecturer.  She is interim co-director of dance for the Department. Most recently, she directed and choreographed Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, a multi-genre dance production at the Lawrence Arts Center. She debuted her work, titled Stingy Lulu’s Jumping Juke Joint, at the 2023 KC Fringe Festival. She is a co-founding member of the House of Dragons dance company.

Buss is originally from Salt Lake City, Utah and moved to Lawrence in 2017 to attend the University of Kansas, graduating with a BFA in Dance and a BSE in Physical Education. She’s worked with Tristian Griffin Dance Company, House of Dragons, and Liat Roth in City in Motions Modern Night. She has been teaching Modern and Hip Hop at KU for a year. She also serves as the Dance Program Coordinator, as well as teaches Jazz, Hip Hop, and Social Dance, at the Lawrence Arts Center.

Pennell is a Chicago-based dancer and choreographer. Currently, she is a trainee with Chicago Repertory Ballet and the Administrative Coordinator of Giordano Dance Chicago. In 2023, Olivia graduated from the University of Kansas with dual degrees in both Dance and Communications. At KU, Pennell earned a School of the Arts Project Research Grant, which funded Emergence, the first student-run dance repertoire concert following the merge of KU’s Theater and Dance departments. 

Professional design team members are Kelly Vogel, associate teaching professor and head of scenography, as scenic designer, and Ann Sitzman, technical coordinator and multi-term lecturer, as lighting designer. Josh Gilpin, an MFA student in scenography, who is the costume designer. Professional freelancer and recent alum Kalen Stockton is serving as guest stage manager; her participation in the UDC Spring Concert is made possible in part by the John M. and Frances R.B. Peterson Visiting Artist Fund.  

Student dancers are Storm Alicie, junior applied behavioral science student from Liberty, Missouri; McKenna Bizal, junior psychology and dance student from Overland Park; Morgan Blanton, junior dance student from Wichita; Abby Boyd, first-year dance and psychology student from Topeka; Rylee Brown, business marketing and strategic communications student from Houston, Texas; Hope Casner, senior dance and exercise science student from Argonia; Alexandria Demps, junior dance student from Kansas City, Mo.; Olivia Dondzila, first-year strategic communications student from DeSoto; Sofia Dunkelberger, first-year dance student from Wichita; Cassidy Dunn, sophomore pre-nursing student from Lawrence; Sydney Ebner, senior dance student; Grace Epperly, junior biology student from Olathe; Madeline Evenson, first-year astronomy student from Brooklyn Park, Minnesota; Mia Godinez, junior journalism student from Chanute; Sophia Harrison, sophomore dance student from Topeka; Cooper Holmes, sophomore theatre performance student from Overland Park; Brooke Howard, senior English student from Overland Park; Kayla Howard, first-year biochemistry student from Leland, N.C.; Alex Hunt, dance and mechanical engineering student from Farmington, Minnesota; Jaydn Kaufman, sophomore business student from Iola; Cullen Krishna, junior dance and ecology student from Bellevue, Nebraska; Lucie Lane, junior education student from Overland Park; Jazmyne Le, junior strategic communications student from Wichita; Abigail Lorenz, sophomore exercise science student from Schaumburg, Illinois; Breck Luedke, first-year student and dance student; Esther McBride, sophomore dance student from Alameda, Calif.; Mara McKelvey, first-year environmental studies student from Limuru, Kenya; Mahika Meesa, sophomore political science student from Overland Park; Savannah Meier, sophomore multimedia journalism student from Tampa, Florida; Audrey Merckling, junior film and media studies student from Lenexa; Cailan Niswonger, senior dance student from Flower Mound, Texas; Sarah Perez, first-year psychology student from Wichita; Dylan Pope, first-year student from Naperville, Illinois; Mallory Price, sophomore dance and journalism student from Leavenworth; Natalie Remack, first-year behavioral neuroscience student from Keller, Texas; Paul Ruf, sophomore biochemistry student from Overland Park; Eliana Rundus, sophomore dance student; Madi Seelye, sophomore dance student from Lawrence; Katie Seminoff, junior biology student from Wichita; Emily Shaw, first-year architecture student from Hutchinson; Molly Shaw, senior journalism student from Hutchinson; Anna Shelton, junior dance student from Hesston; Lindsay Skinner, senior dance student from Des Moines, Iowa; Sloane Smith, sophomore dance and exercise science student from Littleton, Colo.; Claire Sprute, first-year chemical engineering student from Eden Prairie, Minnesota; Quinn Stahly, first-year student from Topeka; Nikolette Treadwell, junior dance major from Wichita; Joslyn Vetock, sophomore dance major from Omaha, Nebraska; Elizabeth Wellman, sophomore dance student from Lawrence; and Rizzy Xiong, a sophomore education and psychology student from Shanghai, China.

The University Dance Company concerts are funded in part by KU Student Senate. The University Dance Company is a production wing of the University of Kansas’ Department of Theatre & Dance.