UI Department of Dance shows humor and growth through their Company Home Concert

Returning for the first time in-person since 2020, the UI Department of Dance presents six contemporary pieces, all with drastically different pieces and inspirations.


Isabella Cervantes

The UI Dance Company rehearses before their first in person show on Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2022 at the Space Place Theater in the North Hall.

Jami Martin-Trainor, Arts Reporter

The University of Iowa’s Department of Dance returned to the stage this week, presenting their UI Dance Company Home Concert. Returning to the Space Place Theatre for the first time since 2020, Associate Director of the UI Dance Company Alexandra Bush remarked that the return “really does feel like coming home.” 

The showcase presented six unique contemporary pieces, all addressing drastically different pieces. Through the presentation, both the audience and dancers were transported to moments of humor, pain, longing, and nostalgia.

This is what I Want

The first piece of the performance was choreographed by Thomas DeFrantz, professor at Duke University, in collaboration with the performers. Even before the exhibition began, dancers were collapsed and laying on the stage as the audience filtered into their seats. They would roll through positions on the floor and occasionally stand to approach a microphone, announcing their desires as declarative statements, prefaced with the words “I want.”

As the piece began, the dancers acted out scenes with their bodies, posing for imaginary photos and pretending to drive flying cars. The performers’ desires became more clear as the piece continued, and at one point, the dancers lined up behind microphones, announcing what they wanted once again. 

The dance then grew in movement and passion, with all of the performers dancing around the stage individually. They filled the space before lining up at the back of the stage, and slowly moving forward. Each dancer spoke aloud, saying what they wanted with increasing speed, volume, and disorder.

Their declarations grew, speaking over each other before they cut to silence, and simply looked at each other with impassioned gazes. Finally, the closing phrase was uttered: “This is what I want.”

Beats Per Minute

Beats Per Minute was the second routine, choreographed by UI Associate Professor of Practice  Kristin Marrs. The curtains crawled open at the beginning to reveal a single dancer on the stage, next to a metronome that was ticking at a methodical pace. The performer, dressed in traditional feminine business clothes, danced to the pace of the metronome, guided by the consistent ‘clicks’ coming from the device.

After a short time, a second dancer entered the stage, holding her own metronome that was set to a different pace. Putting it down to the ground, the dancer repeated the moves performed at the start of the routine, though at a slightly different pace due to the altered tempo she was provided. 

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A third and fourth dancer followed, the noises from the metronomes overlapping to the point of near-chaos. Yet, despite the abundance of sound, the performers kept their composure, dancing with certainty — albeit a bit frantic to match the tone and themes of the piece. In the final moments of the routine, all but one metronome was cut, and the audience was left in complete silence except for the single metronome that continued to play on.

Come Walk In My Shoes

Come Walk In My Shoes was the final piece before intermission, and left the audience with a great deal to think about during the 10-minute break. Choreographed by Kieron Dwayne Sargeant, visiting assistant professor at the UI Department of Dance, Sargeant explored the ideas of shoes as a reflection of femininity. 

The piece begins with the dancers on stage, all overly excited about the tennis shoes that they are wearing. They dance around the stage with a childlike joy, the squeaking of the shoes loud and clear.

Yet, soon that joy faded, and the dancers decided they didn’t want tennis shoes anymore. They tossed the footwear to the front of the stage, where it was forgotten in the darkness. The music transitions to a smooth, sultry, and jazzy sound, as the dancers move with more maturity. A few performers are seen stumbling in heels, unprepared to literally fill those shoes, while others are fighting their fellow dancers for their footwear.

After the fighting and chaos regarding shoes ceases, the dancers repeat the mantra “These are just my shoes, only my shoes,” until the curtain closes for intermission.

Seltsame Seligkeit (strange bliss)

The opening routine after intermission is certainly a contemporary routine, utilizing creative and unique movement that at times seems akin to traditional ballet. The routine relies on four dancers working in partnership, conscious of each other’s space and energy throughout the piece. 

Choreographed by Jennifer Kayle, associate professor at the UI, Seltsame Seligkeit juxtaposes the classic with the strange. The dancers transitioned from classical movements routinely seen in choreographed pieces to sporadic, strange steps.

The audience was intrigued and amused by the style, audibly laughing at the more humorous moments. As the high-energy routine came to a close, the audience could hear the heavy breathing of the dancers after a satisfying routine.

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The beginning of the piece magnificent. by Melinda Jean Myers started with two dancers back to back, braiding each other’s hair under a spotlight. The girls, who were dressed in yellow and blue suits, then started walking through a routine, lacking energy and amusement. 

The audience was cracking up at their amusing steps, the dancers transitioning from their walkthrough to saying “we look good” simultaneously. 

Silence filled the auditorium.

Then — bubbles.

With the click of a button, upbeat music started playing and a bubble machine turned on, lighting up the stage and audience with this feeling of joy and thrill. The dancing was fun and the backdrop switched between vibrant colors to match the bright mood that was set.

When the music ended, the dancers simply looked at each other, soft smiles on their faces. Then, after a moment of pause, had a short moment of celebration, which the audience just adored. 

Trace, Fold, Enclose

The final piece of the night, Trace, Fold, Enclose, was choreographed by Stephanie Miracle, Alex Bush, and the dancers with input from partners at the Iowa City Senior Center. Taking on themes of present connections while looking to the past, this work was certainly a collaborative process. 

Letter exchanges between the dancers and partners at the Iowa City Senior Center were at the focal point regarding the inspiration for the piece. Audio recordings of dancers reading out their letters played in the background, accompanying the movement. 

Transformation through time was a key concept as well. At one point, a single dancer sat at the center of the stage, with the mobile walls as props and dancers ran in circles around her, creating hectic chaos until the energy calmed down and the audience was left with this strange and comforting feeling of growth. 

At the end of the show, the company invited the members of the Iowa City Senior Center in attendance to go on stage. With smiles on their faces, they stood next to the dancers and directors, knowing that some element of themselves was transformed into this visual art.