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UH Dancers Shine in Introspective, Politically-Charged Works

The spring dance showcase, “Ensemble Dance Works,” runs from April 27 – 29.

The University of Houston School of Theatre & Dance presents the annual spring showcase, “Ensemble Dance Works,” featuring original works by faculty and guest artists performed by the UH Dance Ensemble, the University’s pre-professional dance company. This year’s guest choreographers include Corian Ellisor, a UH alumnus, dancer and performance artist, and Jennifer Wood, the founder and artistic director of Suchu Dance.

Ellisor, who graduated with a B.A. in 2008 before moving to Atlanta, Georgia to work with Core Dance, is thrilled to return to his alma mater with a new piece. He will premiere “Divided We Fall,” an introspective work that explores the feeling of being isolated within a group. “I strive to make art that builds a community, one that shares a common appreciation of the ties that bind people together as a human race,” he says. Wood, a regular UH guest choreographer known for her signature large-scale works, is premiering a work featuring 11 dancers. Titled “Punch Today in the Face” and set to original music by Fescennine, the piece is about getting to understand each of the dancers and experiencing their movements.

The other works for the evening include choreography by celebrated UH dance faculty. Assistant Professor John Beasant III presents “Calligraphy,” a contemporary dance piece that explores the joy of unification through the idea of beautiful writing, yielding to a creative fire. The dance highlights two dancers in a tight, lush and sensual choreographic structure. Beasant describes the piece as an example of the voice the art of dance can have. Associate Professor Teresa Chapman’s work “Place” explores the invasion of personal space and the creation and decay of physical intimacy. “My happy place is in your personal space,” remarks Chapman. In “Never Again: The Texas Circus,” Toni Leago Valle responds to the “circus” agenda in Texas politics, commenting on the current political landscape and Texas’ hostile bills towards women. “[This work] highlights the key players in the Texas Legislation that work against women’s autonomy, and the women and men who have found a voice through dark wit and humor as opposition to the government,” she says.

Other works include “So…This Happened” by Karen Stokes, director of the UH Dance Program, and a spoof of the American obsession with house cleaning by Associate Professor Becky Valls, titled “Spotless.” “Ensemble Dance Works” runs from Friday, April 27 through Sunday, April 29 at the Lyndall Finley Wortham Theatre. Following the performance on opening night, audience members are invited to a special reception in honor of Judy and Walter Jones celebrating their endowment of the Tommy Tune Dance Scholarship for UH dance students.