For UNCG dance students looking to launch their careers in an increasingly competitive field, few places are better platforms than the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

And, as fate – or in this case, a lot of hard work – would have it, that’s the stage they’ll be performing on this week.

A group of 10 UNCG dance students and freshly minted alumni is one of just 31 university groups in the nation to be selected to perform at the Kennedy Center as part of the American College Dance Association’s (ACDA) 2016 National College Dance Festival.

The students will perform choreographer Nathan Trice’s “Conversations” at the matinee and evening concerts on Thursday, June 9. This year marks UNCG’s third consecutive invitation to perform at the festival.

“Conversations” is an ensemble performance in which the dancers are loosely organized into couples, with each couple engaging in their own unique “conversations.” The performance was born out of an innovative repertory class – known simply as “The Collective” – taught by Associate Professor Duane Cyrus. The upper-level course emulates a professional dance company environment and requires students to work on a variety of professional production aspects, including marketing and community engagement, in addition to learning choreography for performance.

“The Collective taught me a lot about professionalism and how to work within a company setting,” said senior dance education major Erin Roberts. “There were high expectations placed on us, but we also held high expectations for ourselves.”

A key component of the course is working with guest artists. This past fall, Trice visited campus for two weeks to work with the students on “Conversations.” Trice is the artistic director and founder of nathantrice/RITUALS project-by-project dance theater in New York City, and he also serves as professor of dance at Long Island University.

The central theme of Trice’s “Conversations”? The depth and nuance of human interaction.

“Without hearing the words of these ‘conversations,’ you see the undercurrent of the real discussion and the true human emotions,” Cyrus said.

For the 10 Spartans, the upcoming performance is an incredible opportunity to showcase their talent and technique on a national stage.

“It’s such an honor to take everything I’ve learned and place it on a stage of this caliber,” said Emmanuel Malette, who graduated on May 6 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in dance.

This fall, students in the course will learn a work by Martha Graham, one of the pioneers of modern dance in the United States. In the spring, the class will take the work to the Joyce Theater in New York City to perform on the same bill as the Martha Graham Dance Company.

“I’m excited about these opportunities for our students because they represent the breadth of our department in a really positive way,” Cyrus said. “The Department of Dance is growing and evolving. We’re becoming more diverse in dance practices.”


Story by Alyssa Bedrosian, University Relations
Photography by Martin W. Kane, University Relations