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 students Darrell Rodgers (left) and Natalie Brown (right) perform during a presentation of “Moonstruck” on Nov. 7. The production, performed in conjunction with the 2014 Richland College Arts Fest, featured 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 also contributed pieces to the show, as did guest choreographer Jamie Thompson. Photo by Paul Knudsen.
“The theme ‘Moonstruck’ is about the cultural celebrations of the moon and the madness the moon inspires,” said Jennifer Rose, Richland College art faculty member. “We’re hoping visitors will not only have a great time, but that they’ll also come away with a greater sense of the moon’s importance throughout history and in current pop culture.”
Some of the festival’s highlight events include:
On Nov. 3, Humanities faculty member Aditi Samarth will be displaying student projects about mourning rituals in other cultures. Lois Parrot, Ph.D., Richland College’s 2013-2014 Excellence in Teaching honoree, will also give an informal lecture about the crescent moon in art.
On Nov. 4, visitors can get their faces painted in the style of calavera candy skulls that are used during the Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) holiday. In the east breezeway, the crowd is invited to participate in a spontaneous tap and modern dance performance.
On Nov. 5, the Richland College String Orchestra will be performing in the cafeteria. Participants are also welcome to give back and donate blood for the American Red Cross during the Harvest Moon Blood Drive.
The highlight of the Nov. 6 events is the full moon viewing party when the sun goes down. The art department and science department will host the party.
Moonstruck will culminate on Nov. 7 with a samurai sword fight and two performances of the “Moonstruck” dance performance at 12:30 and 7:30 p.m., featuring dance students, faculty, the Dallas Black Dance Theatre II, guest choreographer Jamie Thompson and guest tap dancer Sean Smith.
Richland College’s social media channels are also hosting two contests that will run throughout the week: the “Crater-Quest Scavenger Hunt” and the “Man in the Moon Photo Contest.”
All Moonstruck events are free and open to the public. To learn more about Moonstruck and see a full schedule of events, visit http://www.richlandcollege.edu/moonstruck/. To participate in the contests, visit www.twitter.com/richlandcollege or www.instagram.com/richlandcollege for more information on how to enter.