Tag Archives: dance

Two students dance in the fall 2017 Richland College production of "Thriller" Richland College Dance Program Presents ‘Utopia’ Spring Dance Concert

The Richland College dance program will transport audiences into a fantastical world of myth and wonder when it presents its spring dance concert, “Utopia,” with performances at 12:30 and 7:30 p.m. April 13.

Directed by Richland College dance director Gina Sawyer, “Utopia” will feature students, faculty members and guest performers in choreography and performance roles, with dance genres including contemporary modern, jazz, tap and hip-hop.

“We hope to make imaginations bubble with excitement in the unexpected land of ‘Utopia,’ where our audience will experience hope, joy and fantasy right along with the performers,” said Sawyer. “This dance performance seeks to take viewers to a place of innovative art-making where dreams come true.”

Part of the performance will be the short film “In Memoriam,” dedicated to celebrating the creative life of the late Darrell Cleveland, a professional dancer, choreographer and instructor who left a lasting influence on the Dallas-Fort Worth dance community, particularly at Richland College, where he was a regular guest performer in dance productions. With performance and choreography clips interposed with commentary about Cleveland from current and former Richland College students, the film remembers an outstanding member of the local community and hopes to inspire others to make a positive impact within their own spheres of influence.

Dance choreography and film work will include original pieces by Sawyer, Christie Bondade, Cheryl Callon, Cooper Delgado, Lauren Schieffer Holley and Terrance M. Johnson. Featured guest performers include 8&1 Dance Company, directed by Jill S. Rucci, and Choreo Records Tap Company, directed by Keira Leverton.

Jill S. Rucci, founder and artistic director of 8&1 Dance Company, moved to Texas from New York City after being a principal dancer and guest choreographer for Vissi Dance Theater for more than 10 years. Her professional experience has taken her to places including Boston, Los Angeles and Olbia, Italy. For six seasons now, Rucci has grown 8&1 DALLAS into a successful dance company, creating innovative and refreshing works, and in January 2018 she announced the expansion of the 8&1 Dance Company to include 8&1 EAST, to be based in Providence, RI.

Kiera Leverton comes from a dance background—her grandfather was Buster Cooper, an influential tap dancer who founded the dance program at the Hockaday School. Much of her exposure to the tap community was through tap festivals such as the Chicago Human Rhythm Project and the Third Coast Rhythm Project, and she trained with a variety of professionals, including Gregory Hines and Yuji Uragami. Leverton has performed worldwide at venues such as Radio City Music Hall and Wembley Stadium in London.

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.

“Utopia” 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. Additional information is available at richlandcollege.edu/dance.


Richland College Dance Program Raises Environmental Awareness with ‘Fire and Ice’ Fall Concert
Two students dancing in sync

Richland College students audition for “Fire & Ice.” Photo by Paul Knudsen.

The Richland College dance program’s movements will go green as it raises awareness of the environment during its fall dance concert, “Fire & Ice,” at 12:30 and 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 4.

Directed by Richland College dance director Gina Sawyer, “Fire & Ice” will involve both students and faculty in choreography and performance roles, with dance genres including contemporary modern, lyrical, jazz, tap and hip-hop.

“’Fire & Ice’ is about creating a greater awareness for our environment through dance performance,” said Sawyer. “The Richland College dance program is collaborating with Richardson Recycles to promote sustainability within our community.”

Each audience member who attends the afternoon show will receive a blue recycle bag from the city of Richardson. The bags can be used as a reusable grocery bags and later can be repurposed into cleaning cloths.

Dance faculty choreography and film work will include original pieces by Claire Augustine, Christie Nelson, Lauren Schieffer and Sawyer. The program will also feature guest performers and choreographers Matt Rivera, the Big Rig Dance Collective and Rhythmic Souls, which is under the direction of Katelyn Harris.

Rivera’s professional experience includes theatrical performances such as “Mamma Mia!” in Las Vegas and the first national runs of “Swing!” and “Movin’ Out.” He also has performed with a variety of dance companies, including Twyla Tharp’s THARP, Hubbard Street Dance in Chicago, Cirque du Soleil and more.

The Big Rig Dance Collective is based in north Texas and produces contemporary dance works that investigate questions big and small through physical experience. Since 2010, the Big Rig Dance Collective has been creating a myriad of dance experiences in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area and has presented at many regional and national festivals throughout the United States.

Rhythmic Souls, under the direction of Harris, 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 continues 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.

Richardson Recycles encourages people to recycle common items such as paper, cardboard, plastic and glass  not only to save landfill space, but  also to help the environment. The City of Richardson offers blue bag collection twice per week for single family homes and annually collects an average of 5,500 tons of recyclable material.

“Fire & Ice” 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.


Richland College Dance Student Attends Joffrey Ballet Dallas Summer Intensive Program

Being a good dancer requires grace, poise and hard work; being an expert dancer also requires a keen mental and physical alertness, strength, balance, control, sensitivity to kinesthetic awareness and an ability to connect with an audience – all things that Richland College dance student Leah Brashear has. And the prestigious Joffrey Ballet School has noticed.Leah Brashear and three other Richland College dance students perform in True Colors

Brashear recently completed her first year of studies in Richland College’s dance program, which helped her to get accepted into the Joffrey Ballet Dallas Summer Intensive Program and the Joffrey Ballet School four-year program of Jazz and Contemporary Dance in New York City.

“When I found out that I got accepted into the Joffrey summer intensive program, I was so glad that I could learn from one of the best dance schools in the country,” said Brashear. “When I also found out that I was accepted to four years of study at the Joffrey Ballet School, I was more than happy! I have always had some self-esteem problems, and finding out that I was accepted at such a prestigious dance school made me believe in myself.”

The Joffrey Ballet School was founded by Robert Joffrey in 1953, and has been cultivating dancers for more than 60 years. It has produced professional dancers, choreographers, studio owners and professionals in the industry. Many graduates are currently dancing with Boston Ballet, Miami City Ballet, Sarasota Ballet, Nevada Ballet, Complexion and Ballet West among other companies across the United States. The Jazz and Contemporary Dance program is designed for dancers who want to focus on jazz and contemporary styles of movement, while also incorporating a wider knowledge of classical ballet and modern dance.

Gina Sawyer, Richland College dance program director, is proud of the skills that Leah has developed in Sawyer’s jazz, tap dance and performance classes.

“Leah’s dancing skills have certainly improved during her time at Richland,” said Sawyer. “She listens and develops during the rehearsal process. During the past year, she has taken greater risks in dancing. She also has a strong inner awareness about her, she picks up movement quickly, she understands the quality of each movement, and she shines. She’s one of many dancers in the program who really shine. She will do great at Joffrey and any professional dance setting that she is in.”

In addition to teaching dance classes, Sawyer also directs and sets choreography for the formal dance concert performed each semester at Richland College. Brashear performed as one of the lead dancers in Richland’s spring dance concert, True Colors, which was a contemporary lyrical piece choreographed by Sawyer. The show was about empowering individuals to discover their unique voice and imagine the possibilities. Brashear sent a recording of that performance as her audition tape to Joffrey, and was accepted into the Joffrey Ballet School and the summer intensive program based on her exceptional skills and graceful movements showcased in that performance.

“My goal in creating the choreography for True Colors was for each of the four dancers to have a sense of equality among them in their performance,” said Sawyer. “It wasn’t about featuring one dancer, it was about each dancer being featured and having a unique voice. Dancers are not always featured in a piece each semester, and it took a lot of work to create four different, lead dance roles. Joffrey required candidates to submit a piece in which they were featured, so Leah had the chance to share this performance with them. They obviously liked what they saw!”

The Dallas Summer Intensive Program was hosted at Texas Woman’s University, and lasted three weeks in August. The program focused on jazz, contemporary and modern dance forms. Other classes included classical and contemporary ballet technique, street jazz, Pilates and yoga. At the end of the intensive program, each student performed in a professionally produced theatre performance.

Now that she has completed the summer intensive program, Brashear will continue to study dance for one more year at Richland College before deciding where to attend school in Fall 2017. She is considering accepting the offer to study at the Joffrey Ballet School or attending the American Dance Academy in New York or Ballet Austin in Austin, Tex. Once she graduates, Brashear plans either to dance professionally or be a dance instructor for young children at a school or dance studio.

“I decided to stay at Richland for another year, so I can mentally and physically prepare myself and be ready to make such a big move,” said Brashear. “Richland has helped me a lot with dance. Gina Sawyer is one of the best dance instructors I ever had. She has taught me skills that none of my past dance instructors ever taught me. She encourages dancers and non-dancers to get out of their safe zone. With her guidance, I have become a stronger, better and more confident dancer.”

The Richland College Dance Program provides a challenging teaching and learning environment for students that values diversity, develops artistic excellence, fosters creative and collaborative practices, and encourages personal agency and social responsibility in appreciating dance. On November 2 at 12:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., the dance program will perform the Fall 2016 dance concert, Fire and Ice. This will showcase a variety of dance styles including contemporary modern, jazz, tap and hip hop dance styles.

For more information on the Richland College dance program, visit our website at www.richlandcollege.edu/hfp/dance-program.


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.


Richland College Dance Program Presents ‘Bella Giorno’
Dark Circles Contemporary Dance

Dark Circles Contemporary Dance

The Richland College dance program will present “Bella Giorno,” a multi-genre performance celebrating the awakening of spring, involving students and faculty in both choreography and performing roles, with two performances March 27 and 28 at 7:30 p.m.

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

“There are many talented returning students in the program this semester,” said Gina Sawyer, director of Richland College’s dance program. “Our students and guest artists make this dance concert a must-see!”

Sawyer will direct “Bella Giorno,” with support from dance faculty Cheryl Callon, Shate Edwards and Julie Rowley. The show will feature guest choreographer Joshua Peugh, with guest performers Katelyn Harris with Rhythmic Souls, Dark Circles Contemporary Dance, directed by Peugh, and Melissa Sanderson.

Dark Circles Contemporary Dance made its American debut in 2013 and soon after was recognized in the top ten of Theater Jones’ “2013 Review: The Year in Dance.” It is dedicated to bringing the progressive work of international choreographers and dancers to a worldwide audience. The company’s newest branch is based in north Texas and is led by Peugh, an internationally award-winning choreographer.

Harris, a Texas native, was a principal dancer with Austin-based Tapestry Dance Company from 2006-2010 and has been nominated several times for “best dancer” by the Austin Critics Table awards. She has received extensive training in a variety of movement styles, including rhythm tap, classical ballet, jazz, contemporary dance, hip-hop, swing dance and hatha yoga.

Sanderson has performed in a variety of national and international festivals, and her choreography has been performed in California and Texas. She is currently a company member of Contemporary Ballet Dallas and co-chair of the Creation and Presentation Network of the World Dance Alliance – Americas.

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.

“Bella Giorno” 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.


Richland College Gets Groovy With Annual ‘Dance Jam’ Festival
Dancer break dancing

Richland College student Darrell Rodgers performs at the 2013 Dance Jam Festival.

The Richland College dance program will get audience toes tapping at the sixth annual Dance Jam Festival, 12:30-1:30 p.m. Dec. 4.

A summation of student learning throughout the fall semester, the Dance Jam Festival will showcase students from all fall semester Richland College dance classes performing tap, ballet, hip hop, jazz and contemporary modern.

“Each year, our students look forward to showcasing their talents and all they’ve learned throughout the semester,” said Gina Sawyer, director of Richland College’s dance program. “The Dance Jam Festival offers them a chance to do that while celebrating the joy of dance and the spirit of the Richland College community.”

Sawyer will direct the Dance Jam Festival, along with dance faculty members Cheryl Callon and Julie Rowley. Guest dancers include the Lakeview Centennial High School dance program under the direction of Crystal Post and the Richardson High School dance program under the direction of Kelly Fishback.

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.

The Dance Jam Festival is free and open to the public, and it will take place in the outdoor breezeway in between Lavaca and Fannin Halls on the east side of the Richland College campus. Richland College is located at 12800 Abrams Road.


Richland College Dance Program Celebrates Moon Madness with ‘Moonstruck’

Four drawings of the moon in various cyclesThe Richland College dance program will present “Moonstruck,” featuring the Dallas Black Dance Theatre II, for two performances at 12:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 7, in Fannin Performance Hall on the Richland College campus. Both performances of “Moonstruck” will be free and open to the public.

The production will feature Richland College dance students and faculty, guest tap dancer Sean Smith and Dallas Black Dance Theatre II dancers performing a variety of dance styles, including contemporary modern, jazz, tap and hip hop. Richland College dance instructors Cheryl Callon, Julie Rowley and Gina Sawyer are contributing pieces to the show, as is guest choreographer Jamie Thompson.

“This is a great opportunity, not just for our students, but also for the public to experience what a powerful medium dance can be,” said Gina Sawyer, director of Richland College’s dance program. “Our guest artists have reputations for a high standard of excellence in performance, and we are thrilled to be able to share the stage with them.”

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.

Jamie Thompson earned a B.F.A. in dance performance and choreography from Belhaven University in Jackson, Miss., and he received additional training from the Belize National Dance Company and Dramatic Forces School of Dance. Most recently, Thompson dances with the internationally acclaimed Dallas Black Dance Theatre.

Sean Smith received training from the Goh Ballet Academy, Ballet British Columbia and the Ailey School, and he has performed with companies including Mascall Dance in Vancouver, Ballet Creole in Toronto and the Bruce Wood Dance Project in Dallas. He is currently in his fifth season with Dallas Black Dance Theatre.

Dallas Black Dance Theatre II, directed by Nycole Ray, is a semi-professional company founded in 2000 and consists of 10 aspiring artists. Continuously growing in popularity, the dance company allows young artists the opportunity to develop their dance skills while serving the Dallas/Ft. Worth community and touring nationwide with diverse, quality artistic performances.

The event will be in conjunction with the 2014 Richland College Arts Fest, taking place Nov. 3-7 on campus. The theme for the festival is “Moonstruck,” and it will focus on cultural celebrations of the full moon and the madness that the moon inspires.