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SpringDanceFest virtual showcase to feature dance works by nationally recognized artists, ASU students

Jorge "House" Magana. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU News

April 16, 2021

Wrapping up the School of Music, Dance and Theatre’s 2020-2021 virtual performance season for dance is SpringDanceFest, and the lineup is set to move audiences beyond just the physical. 

The concert will feature eight works, three of which were created by nationally recognized artists Vanessa Sanchez, Adam McKinney and Liliana Gomez. 

Sanchez is a San Francisco-based Chicana Native dancer, choreographer and educator who focuses on community arts and traditional dance forms to emphasize voices and experiences of Latina, Chicana and Indigenous women and youth. Her work “Lxs Ancestrxs” pays homage to ancestors of all forms who have paved the way and continue to guide.

"The piece honors the Orixa, deities originating in the Yoruba culture, as forces of nature that are our earth ancestors and ancestral rhythms that bring both cries of resistance and collective joy," Sanchez said. "It draws on elements of Afro-Brazilian Orixa tradition including Ogum, Oxum, Iansa and Xango, Afro-Cuban Oricha tradition Yemaya, and the rhythms of Afro-Cuban rhumba."

During a 10-day residency, Sanchez choreographed this original work for a group of nine ASU dance students. “Lxs Ancestrxs” aims to take the audience on a beautiful journey through time and place through imagery, physicality and communal spirit.

McKinney is a former member of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Béjart Ballet Lausanne, Alonzo King LINES Ballet, Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet and the Milwaukee Ballet. He has led dance work with diverse populations across the U.S. and in Benin, Canada, England, Ghana, Hungary and many more. 

McKinney’s new work, “Our Yearning Adrift in Original Location” is an original contemporary ballet commissioned for and created on a cast of nine ASU dance students. Exploring themes of collective memory and love and loss, this piece reveals the physical, emotional and creative strengths of these dynamic student artists.  

Gomez is originally from Guadalajara, Mexico. She is a mother, dance maker, producer, arts advocate and a proud Phoenician. Gomez said she is passionate about sharing dance with the community, and so she choreographs for dance to happen in unique public spaces such as Park Central Mall, Phoenix Art Museum, outside Mesa Arts Center, Desert Botanical Garden and more.

“Fire Work!” by Gomez celebrates life and its journey — its ups and downs and its rituals. It discusses honoring the work, and how we show up and arrive to its challenges. Gomez said the piece speaks to the spark, joy and struggle that coexist in all of us. 

“This piece was originally choreographed in February 2020 on nine dancers,” Gomez said. “I was 8 months pregnant and had two assistants with me to help teach movement: Shaniece and Steven. Because of COVID-19 safety restrictions, the work did not get to be performed onstage.”

Today, the piece has a new title and has only four dancers performing it, yet still has the same movement.

“We did a lot of cut, add, subtract, paste. What a journey! And that is exactly what the work is about — the journey!” Gomez said. 

ASU graduate and undergraduate dance students will also present pieces and dance films, highlighting a wide range of aesthetics from Afro-Brazilian and Afro-Cuban dance to contemporary modern, and from salsa and Afro-Latin forms to hip-hop fusion. 

MFA candidate Kathy Luo will showcase her piece “A Little Boy and the Moon,” which she created in collaboration with pianist and composer Nicholas Turner. She discussed the piece on a recent episode of the School of Music, Dance and Theatre’s “Tunes at Noon” podcast. 

“A Little Boy and the Moon” brings together live music and dance; inspiration came from portraying the abstract object of moonlight. 

“We created a pure, graceful, and light-poetic mood for this piece,” Luo said. “The embodiment of the music composition was a goal for my choreography, and my composer reciprocated my choreography through his musical interpretation.”

At SpringDanceFest, expect to see several more pieces including Tiffany Fox’s new dance film “DEADicated Eye,” created in collaboration with filmmaker and alum Lawrence Fung, as well as “A Little of You, A Little of Me” by Jared Moreno and Xochilt Huitzil, featuring a new genre of dance informed by salsa and Afro-Latin movement forms. 


When: 7:30 p.m. April 16-17 and 2 p.m. April 18.

Admission: Tickets are $10. 

Details: The show will be streamed online. Tickets are available for purchase here.

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