WUDT presents tradition, diversity in annual showcase

| Staff Reporter
Washington University Dance Theatre will present “Common Ground” this weekend for its annual showcase of works choreographed by professionals and students.

Since September, students, faculty and other members of the community have put in long hours to choreograph the performance. According to Alicia Graf, market coordinator for the Performing Arts Department (PAD), the audition process was highly competitive.

“More than 100 students auditioned at the beginning of the semester and only several dozen made the cut,” Graf noted.

The PAD named the showcase after the final work, in which audience members will be invited to stand and join the stage to participate with the dancers.

“We blur the boundary between those who watch and those who dance,” David Merchant, senior lecturer in dance and choreographer of “Common Ground,” said. “In the end, we all come together, to dance on ‘common ground.’”

This year, dancers will perform two distinguished works set by visiting artists James Jordan and Liz Lerman. Jordan is ballet master for the Kansas City Ballet and restaged Anthony Tudor’s classic modern ballet “Dark Elegies.” Lerman is the artistic director for the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange, and the parent of a University student.

Lerman staged “Still Crossing,” a work that originally premiered at the centennial celebration for the Statue of Liberty.

“[‘Still Crossing’] addresses the immigrant experience through community art dance,” Merchant said. “It not only casts Wash. U. student dancers, but also 30 members of the University and St. Louis community.”

Cecil Slaughter, senior lecturer in dance and director of Washington University Dance Theatre points out that “Dark Elegies” and “Still Crossing” mark very important occasions: The former celebrates the 100th anniversary of Tudor’s birth, while the latter, the Statue of Liberty.

Slaughter also noted that both works revolve around the idea of strong community.

“That sense of community extends to works choreographed by the PAD dance faculty,” he said.

Other works in the showcase include “Manic Music II,” choreographed by Associate Professor and Coordinator of the Dance Program Mary-Jean Cowell; “Falling Petals,” choreographed by PAD post-doctoral fellow Ting-Ting Chang; “Ganesha Sharanam,” choreographed by adjunct professor Asha Prem; “Overdrive,” choreographed by Slaughter; and “Passion,” choreographed by adjunct lecturer in dance Keith Tyrone Williams.

Merchant said he is especially excited about the show’s display of diverse performers and choreographers.

“There are dances from different artistic genres and different cultures,” he said. “People dancing are young students and older adults, people well-trained in dance and people new to dance.”

“Common Ground” will run from tonight to Sunday afternoon in Edison Theatre. Shows will be at 8 p.m. tonight and tomorrow night, and 2 p.m. Sunday afternoon. Tickets can be purchased at the show, at all MetroTix outlets or by calling the Edison Theatre Box Office at 935-6543. Ticket prices are $10 for University students, faculty, staff and seniors and $15 for the general public.

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