Richland College Dance Program to Showcase Cultural Heritage and Folklore in ‘Americana’

Dancer poses with red fabric

Richland College dancer Liz Nguyen. Photo by Keenan Cobb.

The Richland College dance program will present “Americana,” a multi-genre performance celebrating America’s heritage and folklore, involving students and faculty in both choreography and performing roles, with two performances Nov. 6 at 12:30 and 7:30 p.m.

Dance genres featured in the performance will include contemporary modern, ballet, jazz, tap and hip-hop.

Gina Sawyer, director of Richland College’s dance program, will direct “Americana,” and she will debut her contemporary modern piece, “This War,” inspired by the poetry of Vietnam veteran Ted Jason Bishop. Rich in visual imagery and powerful movement, “This War” has dancers weaving among a long piece of red fabric that represents the blood of all humanity.

“This piece is about honoring those who have sacrificed their lives for our freedom,” said Sawyer.

Dance faculty members Whitney Coleman and Shaté Edwards created other original pieces within “Americana.” The program will also feature guest choreographer Lonnie J. Hightower, and guest performers include the Dallas Neo-Classical Ballet Company under the direction of Emilie Skinner and Rhythmic Souls under the direction of Katelyn Harris. An art installation, “Divisible by Eight,” is on loan by guest visual artist and Richland ceramics faculty Jen Rose.

A Dallas native, Hightower is an award-winning dancer and choreographer. The National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts recognized his choreography and skill in West African dance, and he became one of two choreographers in the U.S. to be named Presidential Scholar in the Arts. He has choreographed or danced with many companies, including New York Baroque, Dallas Black Dance Theater First Company, Beckles Dance Company, Contemporary Ballet Dallas, Images Contemporary Dance Company and Paul Taylor Dance Company. His television credits include American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance.

The Dallas Neo-Classical Ballet (DNCB) was founded in 2011 under the direction of Emilie Skinner and Victoria Tran with the goal of collaborating with Dallas-Ft. Worth-area visual artists and musicians in order to create a link between the art communities. DNCB also creates opportunities for experienced professional dancers looking to use their classical ballet training and bring exceptional dance to the community.

Rhythmic Souls is a small company of rhythm tap dancers known for their unique blend of style, charisma, innovative choreography and rapid-fire footwork. Rhythmic Souls strives to bring the spirit of tap dance back to the stage and continue the legacy of this American art form. Their cross-genre repertoire infuses rhythm dance with body percussion, sand dancing, contemporary movement, flamenco, swing dance and anything else that might lend itself to rhythmic persuasion.

The Richland College dance program provides a challenging teaching and learning environment for students that values diversity and develops artistic excellence, fosters creative and collaborative practices and encourages personal agency and social responsibility in appreciating dance.

“Americana” is free and open to the public in the Fannin Performance Hall on the east side of the Richland College campus. Richland College is located at 12800 Abrams Road.