ASU's SpringDanceFest poster

ASU dance students to perform new works by renowned choreographers at SpringDanceFest


Sarah A. McCarty

This year, ASU's School of Film, Dance and Theatre’s annual SpringDanceFest concert will not only feature the choreography of dance students, but also the choreography of three recent guest artists, who created new works for students while visiting Arizona State University.

“This has been an incredible year for us with the guest artist program,” said Mary Fitzgerald, assistant director of dance in the School of Film, Dance and Theatre in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. “Three renowned choreographers with quite distinct aesthetics based in urban and postmodern dance forms created new works for a total of 35 students. Each artist was on campus for two-to-three weeklong residencies and taught a range of classes in the dance and theatre areas for more than 100 students.”

These artists include MacArthur Award recipient Kyle Abraham, urban dance artist Teena Marie Custer and postmodern/experimental choreographer Jesse Zaritt. Each choreographer created large ensemble pieces that use a range of aesthetics to explore spirituality and politically charged issues about race, identity and oppression.

“Their works represent some of the most cutting-edge dance-making in the field,” Fitzgerald said. “I am really impressed by the range of voices represented and by the very different ways that these choreographers challenged our students artistically."

SpringDanceFest also features choreography from several students, who continue that range of representation and who found inspiration in various places, from feminist literature and dance films to the desert and “Romeo and Juliet.”

First-year graduate student Laina Carney’s piece “Untitled: Part II” is the second part of her Untitled Series.  

“This series was inspired by the book ‘Bad Feminist’ by Roxane Gay as well as by the contextualization of popular culture’s perspective of the ‘modern’ female through time,” Carney said. “The piece for SpringDanceFest features five dancers and uses blended aesthetics of contemporary modern dance and pedestrian sub-cultures to challenge notions of identity, gender and body attitudes through movement.”

In the piece, lighting designer Lacee Garcia uses visual counterparts to take the audience through a timeline of socially constructed modes of female complexities, Carney said.

“I hope that the work will stick with the audience for longer than the duration of the piece, and also, that it allows them to reflect upon gender roles in today’s society in a new way.”

Michelle Marji, a senior studying dance and psychology, used her surroundings and her dancers to choreograph “Desert Dance.” 

“When creating this piece, I drew inspiration from the desert and the emotional experiences of my dancers,” Marji said. “We used meditation and imagery to create intention in the piece. Ultimately, the desert acts as a symbolic representation of our emotional experience – dancers are affected by the environment they live in (the desert), their emotional human existence, the sound and each other. They affect each other's experience and go through a tumultuous journey before quenching their thirst in the desert.”

Jordan Klitzke’s “This Is Only Temporarily New” is a contemporary look at the “Romeo and Juliet” balcony scene.

Danced by two undergraduate female students, the duet brings the experience of the body to the forefront and lets the text become secondary, allowing a “look at the power dynamics of young relationships and how those are primarily established through subtle and not-so-subtle actions of the body,” Klitzke said.

“I hope the audience gets lost in the world the dancers so beautifully established through their strong, intimate connection with the text, the movement and each other,” Klitzke said. “I'm not looking for the audience to understand something specific I'm trying to say – I am interested in presenting a world on stage where people appreciate the intense beauty before them and enjoy themselves in unexpected ways.”

Other pieces in the SpringDanceFest program include “Holding On” by Arielle Lemke, “Adieu” by Yingzi Liang, “Listen” by Alexus Purnell, “beauty: /ˈbyo͞odē/ noun 1.  a state of being” by Mac Allen and “The Time is Now” by Shelley Jackson in collaboration with dancers.

SpringDanceFest runs at 7:30 p.m. April 21–22 and 2 p.m. April 23 at the Paul V. Galvin Playhouse. For more information and to buy tickets, visit ASU Events