UI Dance Company to showcase diverse range of works in virtual performance

The dance company’s home performance will virtually premiere Saturday at 8 p.m. The performance will showcase five works, with styles of Brazilian frevo, house dance and hip-hop, contemporary postmodern, and more.


Photo of UI Dance Company 2021. Contributed.

Maddie Johnston, Arts Reporter

In a typical year, the UI Dance Company, the University of Iowa’s touring dance company begins their season with a home concert followed by performances throughout the Midwest. This year, the UI Dance Company will hold its home concert and tour virtually and end its season with a series of outdoor performances presented by Hancher Auditorium.

This year’s home performance will showcase the work of six choreographers and 13 dancers, with five diverse works in areas of house dance and hip-hop, frevo, contemporary postmodern, and more. The UI Dance Company said this year’s performance aims to celebrate the perseverance, athleticism, and innovation of its dancers.

One of the dances, entitled, And Let’s Go, choreographed by UI Dance Company co-director Alex Bush, will focus on “movement for movement’s sake.” The dance is inspired by Bush’s 3-year-old son, who dances with joy and abandon any time he hears the music from the Hawkeye Marching Band, Bush said. She urged her dancers to recall their earliest memories of movement, prior to their formal dance training, and use this to inform their style in the piece.

Bush will use the familiar music of the Hawkeye Marching Band to provoke a feeling of connectedness between her dancers and the audience.

“I think right now, a lot of us feel very isolated, and I like the idea of having something that would really bring the audience in and help them latch on to something that feels familiar and help us feel in community together,” Bush said.

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One of the common concerns between the choreographers was that the liveliness of dance would get lost when moving to the virtual world. After being forced out of their traditional space due to ventilation problems, dancers and choreographers were forced to adapt to a much smaller space, and one without mirrors.

For Lovar Davis Kidd, choreographer and former member of the dance company, he watched this hindrance turn into an opportunity to free dancers from external concerns and focus on just being present with one another.

Kidd will bring a foundational house dance and hip-hop routine to the performance. In connection to its name, root(ed), Kidd said he wanted the piece to be grounded, earthy, and pay homage to the African rhythms and beats that founded hip-hop and house dance movement.

“There was only one dancer who had any kind of background in house or hip hop, but the other 10 dancers just fully jumped in feet first, and adapted and changed, which kind of shows how great the Department of Dance is at the University of Iowa — that they’re training dancers in a way that make it so they are able to adapt very easily, which is going to help them in their professional endeavors after they leave the University of Iowa,” Kidd said.

For dance professor and professional choreographer Armando Duarte, whose work is inspired by the playful nature of Brazilian frevo dance, this transition was an opportunity to expand the company’s platform.

“The mission of the UI Dance Company is to spread this world out there,” Duarte said. “And the virtual world can help us a lot. Someone in China can see what we do here, someone in Brazil can see what we do here, and so, and I think that’s the up of the moments we live in now.”

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Duarte’s piece was originally written in 2014. He said altering the performance to fit the new group, as well as accommodate the new space and virtual format, was a chance to offer joy to the community.

“For UI Dance Company this year, in particular considering the pandemic state that we all live in, I thought, ‘Can I make it in a new work?’” Duarte said. “Yes, I can always make it a new work. But what if I would bring something that I have done in the recent past, that could be — not inspirational that would be too, you know, kind of pretentious — but something that could be pure movement, with great music, with dancers moving all over the space, kind of maybe humbly offering a little bit of joy for all us out there.”

Other works include a trio in contemporary postmodern style by choreographer Melinda Jean Myers, and a dance film created by choreographer Stephanie Miracle in collaboration with filmmaker and MFA Cinematic Arts student Hao Zhao. Collaborating on the sound aspect of the show is Omar Zubair, a professional freelance artist based out of New York City.

The free event will premiere on Saturday at 8 p.m. and can be streamed on the UI’s YouTube channel as well as on the virtual dance platform.