Dance Theatre

University of Wisconsin - River Falls

March 24, 1997

Dance Theatre Set for April 9-12

The University of Wisconsin-River Falls Dance Theater will perform works of modern, traditional, and folk dance in its annual Spring Dance Concert April 9-12.

The concert begins at 8 pm in the Blance Davis Theater located in the Kleinpell Fine Arts Building. The cost is $5 for adults and $3 for students and senior citizens. Tickets are available at the door or in advance by calling the UW-RF box office at 715/425-3114.

Formed in 1981 under UW-RF dance Professor Karla Zhe, the UW-RF Dance Theater organization performs a major concert every spring. This year's concert has 12 pieces ranging in style from serious, abstract and modern pieces to humorous, physical pieces to more traditional, cultural dance.

"Each piece is its own entity," remarked Zhe.

"We hope to present a well-rounded performance that people can learn from," Zhe said. The concert will not only be entertaining but also challenge the audience's thinking and offer insight into other cultures. One of Dance Theater's goals is to provide exposure to modern dance and enhance its appreciation.

The concert opens with two pieces performed by 5th graders from Greenwood Elementary school in River Falls and finishes with a large group piece including all 37 Dance Theater members.

Six Dance Theater students of various levels of experience and knowledge have individually choreographed several of the concert's pieces.

The concert will include a special piece in which three students from River Falls will join with six students from the E. Gwynn Dance Company at North Carolina University A&T to perform Cuban-derived choreography. This piece was a result of an intensive field study of African/Cuban dance and history by Karla Zhe and Dr. Eleanor Gwynn of North Carolina University A&T.

Members of the UW-RF Dance Theater and E. Gwynn Dance Company have engaged in a faculty and student exchange to jointly create the Cuban-derived choreography.

"This exchange is a continued effort to promote a relationship between the two universities and to provide the students with an opportunity to work with individuals from diverse backgrounds," Zhe explains.

Both dance companies have been working individually on the project since September and have met three times to rehearse and coordinate their dancing styles. One of these meetings took place during a week-long trip to Jamaica that included an intensive study of Caribbean dance and culture and classes with two guest artists from Cuba at the National School of Dance in Kingston, Jamaica.

"Learning, working together, and performing [with the North Carolina students] is a multifaceted experience," said Zhe. The final meeting of the two companies will be the culmination of all the work, the practice, and the cultural exposure."

The concert will also feature a flowing, lyrical piece choreographed by guest artist Patrick Connolly of the Connolly Dance Company. During a seven-day residency that took place in November, eight members of Dance Theater auditioned for the piece. The selected dancers worked long hours with Connolly that week learning the movement, rehearsing, and perfecting the demanding technique required.

Connolly and his wife Kristanne, also of the Connolly Dance Company, spent time with dance students discussing the intent of the choreography, character developments, and the reasons behind various movements. The Connolly Dance Company will be performing at the UW-RF on April 15.

Members of Dance Theater are extremely dedicated, said Zhe. By participating, they take on a huge time commitment. The students work all year in preparation for this concert and put in many hours of work.

One of Dance Theater's strengths is that members exhibit a wide range of abilities. The group is chosen through audition, but no prior experience in dance is required to join . Dance Theater selects its participants on the basis of interest and heart, choosing those who truly want to move and who are willing to work hard.

"Dance is just natural, it's in us," emphasized Zhe. "Dance is very important, it's a vital art form." Instead of a brush, the choreographer uses the dancers to create a visual art form, Zhe explains. The uniqueness of dance lies in the idea that the art is there only for a moment, and then it's gone.

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