UI Dance Department holds 37th annual Dance Gala

The Dance Department will host the celebration of dance in North Hall’s Space Place Theater


David Harmantas

Students in the University of Iowa’s Department of Dance perform in Dance Gala 2018 in Space Place Theater on Monday, Oct. 8, 2018. (David Harmantas/The Daily Iowan)

Adrian Enzastiga, Arts Reporter

They move as one fluid unit, in perfect rhythm with each other. Whether hard-hitting or lyrical-flailing, the dancers engulf the stage, creating an image of popping colors and shapes. One could watch them as a group of individual performers, each one contributing their own story to the larger piece of art as a whole.

Tonight marks the start of the 37th annual Dance Gala. Dance Gala consists of five pieces, each directed and choreographed by Department of Dance faculty, and then performed by faculty and students alike.

Put on by the University of Iowa Department of Dance faculty and students, the concert will be held in the Space Place Theater located in North Hall. There will be six shows spread out between Wednesday evening and Oct. 14. Tickets are $5 for UI students and $20 for adults.  

Armando Duarte, director of Dance Gala, said he is honored to carry on this tradition.

“Every year, faculty choreographs pieces that are original works, and that brings a variety in the program, a variety of language, a variety of movements, styles,” Duarte said. “I like to refer to Gala as a concert to all ages, from most traditional forms to most contemporary forms.”

Dance Gala provides credits to the participating dancers, and also acts as a learning experience for students.

“Our dancer students are welcome to participate in the auditions, so they already start a learning process about how it is to be casted in a piece, how does that work,” Duarte said. “That is through learning movement quickly, showing the choreographers that they can be great collaborators.”

Not only is Dance Gala a major UI artistic performance, but it also attracts people outside the local community.

“We extend our reach beyond the university,” Duarte said. “It is one of the productions that people attend from all over the midwest.”

This is Duarte’s 25th Dance Gala, and thus, he has much appreciation for the specialty and the celebration of the arts that it brings.

“Dance, somehow or another, will always be a reflection of the world and what’s going on.”

— Meredith Stapleton

“There is a tradition that has been built all these years, which is something we are all very humbly proud about,” Duarte said.

Duarte said that Dance Gala has “a very creative faculty and students of high level of talent.” He said he is also excited to introduce this year’s guest choreographer, Shannon Alvis, whom he describes as “a wonderful dance maker.” Alvis is travelling from Chicago and has choreographed the final piece of this year’s Dance Gala.

Duarte choreographed and will be performing in the third piece, a duet with MFA student Meredith Stapleton.

“There’s a larger umbrella of understanding that dance, somehow or another, will always be a reflection of the world and what’s going on,” Stapleton said. “Whether that’s historically located or politically located, even imagining a world that doesn’t exist and can only be imagined through the body.”

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Stapleton is set on the choreograph track, and said that she loves choreography because of the different stories that a single dance can constantly portray.

“There doesn’t have to be a narrative throughline necessarily. I think there can be a lot of play in the abstract and a lot of play in experimenting with identity,” she said. “Being on stage in performance alone is already offering a lot of those poetic layers of meaning.”

Stapleton also said that she is excited to hear how all of the works in Dance Gala are interpreted.

“The experience of the audience I look forward to, especially when we’ve been practicing it so intensely for so long,” she said. “It’s exciting to put it out there and see how it’s received and what kinds of conversations it can start.”