Kansas Dance Festival kicks off Friday

11/22/2013 7:20 AM

08/08/2014 10:34 AM

Dozens of top-notch dancers from five colleges are getting together to perform new work at the Kansas Dance Festival this weekend at Wichita State University.

Some pieces at the festival, which is being presented by the WSU School of Performing Arts and Dance, will feature classic ballet. Others will perform jazz and several will show off contemporary modern pieces.

This mixture of technique and style helps contribute to the festive atmosphere of learning and performing.

“Dance is a very small family,” said Sabrina Vasquez, an accomplished dancer and choreographer and an instructor at WSU. “Anytime we can get together it is wonderful.”

Along with choreographing “Patterns of Change,” Vasquez is helping to coordinate the festival with WSU’s director of dance, Nick Johnson. Last year’s festival showed off the accomplishments of two schools; this year, there will be five. College participating are Friends University, Kansas State University, University of Missouri-Kansas City, University of Nebraska and WSU.

“You can consider it a well-rounded show,” Vasquez said.

During the day, students will take classes from professors at other universities. There will be a class in hip hop, one in improvisation, another in advanced ballet, and another in Pilates. The diversity of teachers will help push the students from all the colleges, she said.

“It’s always great to have different classes,” Vasquez said.

Along with several works by WSU faculty, the WSU students will perform a new work by Shauna Martinez, a company member of Diavolo Dance Theatre in California. Martinez, who also is a graduate of the dance program at WSU, created “LA” for the WSU students.

Martinez, who graduated from WSU in 2007, has danced for this internationally-acclaimed Los Angeles-based dance company since 2009. As a company member, she performed in Madrid, Hong Kong and Wolfsburg, Germany.

Her piece for the festival reflects her work with Diavolo. She will use ten dancers (four men and six women) and a loveseat. The dancers will perform around, over and with the piece of furniture.

“There’s a lot of cause and effect,” said Martinez, who graduated from Derby High School. “I’m using a structure and modern acrobatics. It’s really athletic and theatrical.”

The dancers will wear dark gray pants with royal blue tops. Strips of off-white will serve as a highlight color and coordinate with the off-white couch. Like the dancers, the off-white couch will slide and glide across the set.

“It’s fun and interactive,” Martinez said. “There’s a lot of partnering, weight sharing and counter balance in the piece.”

Martinez said she is excited to give back to her alma mater.

“I’m so proud of this program,” she said. “It was really a treat to go back and give to a department that is already so strong. I’m excited to give them one more thing – acrobatics with a structure.”

Martinez has served as a guest artist for the WSU troupe on several occasions.

“As she has embraced our students and taught classes for us, we realized that she was not only a gifted choreographer but a great teacher as well,” said Vasquez.

Johnson said he hopes the community takes advantage of this opportunity to see students from several Midwest states perform.

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