UI professors travel to Trinidad and Tobago for dance festival

University of Iowa professors Kieron Dwayne Sargeant and Eloy Barragán will travel to Trinidad and Tobago for the Contemporary Choreographer Collective Dance Festival on Saturday and Sunday.

Parker Jones, Arts Editor

Movement, emotion, music, and spectacular visuals are only some of the aspects of dance showcased through the University of Iowa dance department and will soon take the stage far from Iowa City.

From Saturday through Sunday, two UI dance professors will partake in the Contemporary Choreographers’ Collective Dance Festival held in the island nation of Trinidad and Tobago.

The COCO dance festival formed in 2009 by a collective of dance teachers and has sought to bring together choreographers from across Trinidad & Tobago, throughout the Caribbean, and beyond. This will be the second time that the UI has sent dance instructors to participate, but the first time any will travel to Trinidad and Tobago, as last year’s festival was held virtually due to concerns surrounding COVID-19.

Kieron Dwayne Sargeant is a visiting assistant professor of dance and a Grant Wood Fellow in Interdisciplinary Performance, who will be traveling alongside Eloy Barragán, an associate professor of dance and the director of this year’s Dance Gala.

Sargeant will teach one master class and a workshop during the festival on the Funerary Dances of Trinidad and Tobago, focusing primarily on the Limbo and Bongo dances, which are both spiritual dances traditionally performed at wakes and ceremonies for the recently deceased.

Sargeant also attended the festival last year but is excited to participate in person for the first time. He noted he and Barragán were sponsored to travel through the financial and moral support of the UI’s dance department, as well as the Stanley Travel Grant.

“Now Eloy and I are going there in person, which is very exciting to me,” Sargeant said. “I brought the opportunity last year to the university. But you know, everyone was all over and people weren’t feeling well and stuff, but COVID, it’s kind of like eased up now.”

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Barragán will present a dance he originally choreographed in for the International Writing Program as a part of the Spring 2022 Dance Collaboration. Titled “TIC TOC,” the dance is “an exploration of time, space, memory, and the perception of our own history, own identity, and how others view us,” and will be performed solo by UI dance alum Emily Trapnell at the festival.

In addition to “TIC TOC,” Barragán also choreographed “ENTRE LAS GRIETAS/BETWEEN THE CRACK,” which will also be shown at the festival. It was created as both a Screendance Festival film for the American College Dance Association and in collaboration with the IWP, inspired by the “collective conversations and reflections on the ideas of diversity and inclusion.”

“I feel very, very honored and thankful that they accepted my Screendance work,” Barragán said. “I did everything through Zoom to create these pieces … but with COCO, I’m going to present these works, and it’s like, ‘woohoo.’ Super excited.”

Barragán noted for both dances, he collaborated entirely through Zoom with multiple artists from around the world, including a poet and videographer from Mexico, two dancers from Mexico, a poet from Venezuela, and a musician from the U.S. He said the global unity is the most important part of the festival to him.

“It is very rewarding as a person and as an artist, but I think that also is a way of really not having any borders,” Barragán said. “Either in film or in performance or in paintings or sculptures, whatever it is, I think that is an activity that needs a community, a global community.”

Sargeant agreed with this point, noting that art is universal and meant to be shared with the world.

“It’s all about bringing all these worldly views together to celebrate dance,” Sargeant said. “It’s a celebration.”