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Diverse music styles and a hip hop anniversary highlight the fall dance concert

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

LAWRENCE – For two nights, Antonin Dvorak, American gamelan music, epic pirate music and hip-hop will share the stage as University Dance Company performs with UNITY Dance Crew. The shows will take place at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 16-17 at the Lied Center of Kansas.

Aug. 11, 1973, marked the birth of hip-hop, dated from the moment Kool Herc and Coke La Rock mixed music and the mic in the Boogie Down Bronx. To commemorate the 44th anniversary, guest artist and part-time KU dance instructor Maya Tillman-Rayton created “Let the Groove Get In.” Featuring UNITY Dance Crew, “Groove” is a feel-good piece that showcases the most positive element of hip-hop culture: a cypher – or a jam, an event for hip-hop fans to show their skills, look good and have a great time. UNITY will be performing urban dance styles like step, house and jazz funk to some favorite classic songs from four decades of hip-hop culture.

“Hip-hop informs cultures all over the world. There are generations of artists imparting the complexity of what hip-hop represents. We want to explore the hip-hop legacy in song and dance, from joyful celebration to social critique,” said Michelle Heffner Hayes, chair of the KU Department of Dance. “Our students grow up listening and dancing to it and now study it more deeply while here at KU. Like ballet, jazz, tap or contemporary modern dance, hip-hop has a place among classical art forms.”

Rhianna Jordan, a senior dance major and president of UNITY Dance Crew, explores nostalgia, violence and political critique in “PAST/PRESENT/FUTURE.” Songs from Chance the Rapper, Kendrick Lamar and Drake provide a sound score for reflections on race and identity. Content warning: This work uses explicit and racially charged language to discuss these issues.

“Zora’s Domain,” choreographed by Jerel Hilding, former principal dancer with the Joffrey Ballet and associate chair of dance, evokes an underwater realm dominated by water sprites. Dvorak’s lyrical “Romance in f minor, op. 11,” provided the inspiration for the ballet’s otherworldly theme.

Guest artist Andie Stitt, a part-time instructor at KU, tours regularly with National Talent and Arts Partners as a teaching artist. Her new work, “REM,” sets contemporary dance on a collision path with a recliner on wheels to electronic music by I Monster and Mura Masa.

Choreographed by Dance Professor Patrick Suzeau, “Blossom of Fire” explores movement as a pathway to mystical experience. Moving in constant spirals, the work is set to a shimmering score for gamelan instruments by American composer and gay activist Lou Harrison.

Performed to music in a style known as epic pirate music, “Phalanx” is a non-narrative dance choreographed by KU dance instructor Willie Lenoir. The fast-paced choreography evokes a sense of rushing headlong into an adventure.

Tickets on sale at the Lied Center box office: Seniors (62 and older), $10; public $15; students and children, $8.50. Tickets bought before 6 p.m. Nov. 15: Seniors (62 and older), $8.50; public $11; students, $5, and children, $5. There is an additional $1 per ticket customer service fee and $5 per order mailing and processing on internet and mail orders.

The Department of Dance is one of four departments in the School of the Arts. As part of the KU College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the School of the Arts offers fresh possibilities for collaboration between the arts and the humanities, sciences, social sciences, international and interdisciplinary studies.