University Dance Company Turns Up the Volume at Murphy Hall

The University Dance Company Fall Concert explores love, community, and self-discovery through professionally choreographed works in ballet, hip hop, and contemporary dance at Murphy Hall Nov. 11-13. 

“The students and choreographers are thrilled to be working in-person again and are excited to present our newest dances,” said James Moreno, Associate Professor of Dance and UDC Fall Concert Producer.

Performance times are Nov. 11 and 12 at 7:30pm and Nov. 13 at 2:30pm in the Crafton-Preyer Theatre at Murphy Hall. Tickets can be reserved at Fall Dance Concert, by calling 785-864-3982, or in person Monday-Friday noon-5pm at the Box Office in Murphy Hall. 

The Concert’s finale is choreographed by Kristopher Estes-Brown, an award-winning creator who was in residency at the University of Kansas earlier this fall. He’s debuting his modern/contemporary work Shade of a Shadow, which was inspired by a line in the Mary Elizabeth Coleridge poem The Other Side Of A Mirror and set to cinematic music he composed specifically for this production. 

Department of Theatre & Dance faculty choreographers are Ashley Brittingham, James Moreno, and Maya Tillman-Rayton. Brittingham has set original choreography on her student performers as they enact scenes from The Firebird by Igor Stravinsky. Moreno’s work, Five Pieces about a Future, features spoken word and choreography contributions by his cast and assistant director Mio Yoshizaki, PhD student in Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies. Tillman-Rayton's hip hop ensemble turns it up with moves that speak to love of community and community building. The Jayhawk Tap Co. debuts several quick and impressive pieces interspersed between those works. 

Knox McClendon, a senior theatre design major, is serving as costume designer. Dave Wanner, a longtime staff member and the Department’s Scene Shop Manager, is the scenic designer. Ann Sitzman, technical coordinator and lecturer in the Department, is the lighting designer.

A composer, choreographer, director, and teacher, Estes-Brown is the founder and artistic director of Concept Zero, a contemporary music and dance company that serves as the ground floor for his multimedia productions which blend original music, dance, video, and stagecraft. He danced professionally for companies across the United States including Milwaukee Ballet, Sacramento Ballet, Oakland Ballet, and Eugene Ballet. From there, he developed his own choreography style that is the intersection of movement, music, and storytelling. His stage works have been performed across the nation by numerous dance companies. The Kansas City-based choreographer won the Monticello Award from Regional Dance America in 2005, and his choreography can be found in the Sundance Short Film, “Crude Oil.” As a composer, Estes-Brown has composed scores for new theatre and dance productions nationwide. 

Brittingham, a professional ballerina, choreographer and educator, has performed throughout the United States and Europe in nearly every full-length classical ballet and many neo-classical and contemporary works by the world’s leading choreographers. She has trained with and been coached by the world’s premier experts in classical ballet instruction. At the University of Oklahoma, she earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Ballet and toured with the Oklahoma Festival Ballet. Brittingham later joined Tulsa Ballet, under the direction of Marcello Angelini. She has received numerous awards, including the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts awardee in dance and musical theatre and was a semi-finalist in the 2002 International Ballet Competition, one of the world’s largest ballet competitions. Her choreographic work has been performed by numerous dance and theatre companies. She is a full-time lecturer in the Department and associate producer of the University Dance Company Fall Concert.

Moreno is a choreographer and dance studies/performance studies scholar. His current research examines how we use everyday movement techniques to perform our cultural identities and how we position our identities within continuums of authenticity. His ethnographic fieldwork for this research is being conducted in Mexican-American communities in Chicago. Interviews from this fieldwork will form the basis of the dance-theatre piece on Mexican-American cultural identity scheduled for Winter 2023/24. Moreno holds a PhD in Performance Studies from Northwestern University, is Associate Professor of Theatre and Dance at the University of Kansas, and is author of Dances of José Limon and Erick Hawkins (Routledge, 2020).

Tillman-Rayton is in her sixth year as a lecturer of the Hip Hop Fundamentals class and first year as a full-time lecturer. She will be debuting a new work at the 2023 KC Fringe Festival entitled Stingy Lulu’s Jumping Juke Joint. Her works have previously been shown at KC Fringe Festival and at National Dance Week KC. Her dance teaching career spans 15 years in Lawrence and Kansas City communities, earning several choreography and entertainment awards. She is also a two-time scholarship recipient from Monsters of Hip Hop dance conventions, and a co-founding member of the House of Dragons. The KU alumna served as Unity Dance Crew president from 2001-2003 when she was a student.

McClendon is a senior majoring in Theatre Design. They also designed costumes for the University Dance Company Spring 2022 Concert. In addition to honing their skills as a designer, McClendon works as a costume assistant in the Department’s Costume Studio. They are the Glenn Bickle Award and Stephanie Ann Smith Memorial Scholarship recipient for the 2022-23 year.

Sitzman is the Technical Coordinator and lecturer for the Department. Her lighting design credits include Head Over Heels, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Spring Awakening, Company, and Picnic. She was also lighting co-designer for the Kansas Repertory Theatre productions of La Cage aux Folles and The Legend of Georgia McBride. She received her Bachelor of Fine Arts at KU and Master’s in Lighting Design from SUNY Purchase College in New York. She spent a few years working Off Broadway on shows including Woody Harrelson’s Bullet for Adolf with Jen Schriever and On the Head of a Pin with Zach Pizza at 59E59. Since returning to Kansas in 2013, she has worked as assistant lighting designer for David Grill and Kirk Bookman at the Kansas City Ballet and lighting designer/production electrician for Harvest Productions.

Wanner has been the University Theatre Scene Shop Manager since 1996 after earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theatre from Emporia State University. He was the lighting designer for the University Theatre productions of The Ugly Duckling, Temptation, and Pastiche, and scenic designer for The Devils Between Us, Electra, Metamorphoses, Pooter McGraw Is Not Dead Party, Tomato Plant Girl, and Wonderful Time/The Brides.

Student dancers performing in the UDC Fall Concert are Colette Adair, a first-year student from Omaha, Neb.; McKenna Bizal, a sophomore psychology and dance double major from Overland Park; Morgan Blanton a sophomore dance major from Wichita; Hope Casner a junior exercise science and dance double major from Argonia; Alexandria Demps, a sophomore dance major from Kansas City, Mo.; Johnny Dinh Phan, a senior biochemistry and dance double major from Overland Park; Sydney Ebner, a junior dance major from Shawnee; Allay Freeman, a senior philosophy major from Overland Park; Sophia Harrison, a first-year student in dance from Topeka; Stephanie Hartz, a first-year student in dance from Orwigsburg, Pa.; Anna Hastings, a senior dance major from Olathe; Kacie J. Herbek, a junior dance major from Lawrence, Neb.; Alex Hunt, a dance and mechanical engineering double major from Farmington, Minn. Olivia Johnson, a senior mathematics and dance double major from Des Moines, Iowa; Aubree Johnston, a junior dance major from Lee’s Summit, Mo.; Mary Kozar, a sophomore communications major from Minneapolis, Minn.; Cullen Krishna, a sophomore dance and ecology, evolution, and organismal biology double major, from Bellevue, Neb.; Lucie Lane, a sophomore elementary education unified, from Overland Park; Marti Lond, a sophomore marketing and finance major from La Quinta, Calif.; Megan Londeen, a senior strategic communications and east Asian studies double major from Kingman; Sadie Lucier, a senior anthropology major from Shawnee, Braedyn McBroom, a senior atmospheric science major from Wichita; Mahika Meesa, a first-year student in political science from Overland Park; Savannah Meier, a first-year student in journalism, from Trinity, Fla.; Audrey Merckling, a sophomore film and media studies major from Lenexa; Olly Mitchell, a sophomore theatre major from Wichita; Cailan Niswonger, a sophomore dance major from Flower Mound, Texas; Katherine Noll, a first-year student in information systems from Overland Park; Olivia Pennell, a senior dance and communications double major, from Springfield, Ill; Christie Phillips, a junior psychology and dance double major from St. Louis, Mo.; Hayley Robinson, junior dance major from Overland Park; Eliana Rundus, a second-year student in in dance; Madison Seelye, a first-year student in dance and business from Lawrence; Anna Shelton, a sophomore dance major from Hesston; Lindsay Skinner, a junior dance major from Des Moines, Iowa; Sloane Smith, a first-year exercise science major from Littleton, Colo.; Grace Stephan, a senior dance major from Davenport, Iowa; Olivia Taylor, a senior exercise science major from Lenexa; Joslyn Vetock, a first-year student in dance from Omaha, Neb.; and Rizzy Xiong, a sophomore secondary English education major from Shanghai, China via Los Angeles, California. 

The University Dance Company’s Spring 2022 Concert is supported in part by KU Student Senate. The University Dance Company is a production wing of KU’s Department of Theatre & Dance.