Passions in Motion

See some of the best in dance at USF’s Fall Dance Concert showcasing faculty's innovative choreography and outstanding students’ professionalism.

                                                                                                                        homepage photo and video by Candace Kaw | CoTA

By Barbara Melendez

USF News

TAMPA, Fla. (Nov. 6, 2013) – If you love dance, if you’re curious about dance or would simply like to broaden your cultural horizons, treat yourself to some of the best dancing and choreography available in the Tampa Bay area – at the annual Fall Dance Concert, Nov. 8, 9, 10, 14, 15 and 16.

With limited opportunities to experience such a high level of skill and creativity in the dance arena, this event is not to be missed.

This claim is backed up not only by great talent but also by experience and reputation – on the part of the choreographers as well as the dancers who made it through rigorous auditions.

Highly-recognized national and international credits fill the biographies of the DanceUSF faculty who choreographed the program: Andrew Carroll, Michael Foley, Bliss Kohlmyer, John Parks, Katurah Robinson and Andee Scott.

In explaining their dance compositions, the choreographers don’t expect rational understanding as much as the experience of emotion that can lead to considering new ideas and new ways of looking at life and reality. The artistry, energy and emotion expressed through movement transport audiences who appreciate the beauty and skill of the dancers along with the choreographers’ inventiveness.

“Dance can communicate where words fail,” Carroll likes to say. “USF’s program embraces very athletic dance, not demure, not dainty but rather big, bold movement. My hope is that the audience will marvel at what the human body can do through space. We want to leave them saying, ‘That was so beautiful!’ and ‘How did they do that?’”

Performances take place Nov. 8 - 9 and Nov. 14 - 16 at 8 p.m. and Nov. 10 at 3 p.m., all in Theatre I on the USF Tampa campus. Prices range from $8 to $15 with student, senior and group discounts available. Tickets can be purchased online, by phone at (813) 974-2323 or in person at the box office. For box office hours, location and other ticketing information visit

A diverse and compelling program

Carroll’s two pieces are related to his two interests, classical and contemporary ballet. “The Artifice of Pretense: Discovering the True Trophy,” is an original.

“The point of departure for this piece is the struggle to live life as your true self and having the world accept you for who you are, stripping away the artifice and masks to find the true trophy,” he explained. “It’s very strong, very dramatic – showing that sometimes all the glamour hides the truth. When you’re honest you can shine.”

The second piece is a classic from 1905, “The Dying Swan,” chosen to showcase the classical skill taught in the dance program and at a mere three minutes serves to introduce audiences to the beauty of classical ballet.

“A lot of audiences are not raised in dance and are not familiar with all the formality,” said Carroll. “They’re not up to the three hours of something like a Swan Lake.” But this piece, he said, offers the athleticism and skill that will entertain and impress and hopefully bring audiences back for more.

“In this very diverse program the performances show what the human body can accomplish and what limits the body can be pushed to.”

Kohlmyer explores material “structures” in her “Picture in a Frame.” She choreographed this piece with 20 dancers and 20 chairs in what she describes as a “striking ensemble” where most of the dancers function as something akin to a Greek chorus.

Inspired on a trip to Paris this summer where she was fascinated by the locks found on the city’s bridges, she was led to contemplate the notions of permanence and impermanence.

To realize her vision Kohlmyer needed, “individuals who weren’t afraid of being quirky” for her character-driven composition. In her desire to “challenge expectations” she says, audiences should “never know what to expect” but rather be open to what they are seeing.

Giving dancers “tasks around ideas,” Kohlmyer builds on quotes she finds that she then shares with the dancers. They engage in a process of creation based on inviting the dancers to contribute their ideas and dance movements. She ends up with “a big pool” and “a big palate” of movements and ideas to choose from to create the final work.

”I’m really interested in subject material that is personal but not my own personal narrative. I want the dancers to be involved psychologically and emotionally, to have each one of them ‘in there’ so that the result is very human, not just space and pattern. I want their stories told as well so that we end up with material that one person could never make up otherwise.”

She says it takes “maturity and courage” on the part of the dancers, but more and more, dancers aren’t only given steps to repeat, learn and perform, but rather they are given tasks and problem-solving assignments. “It’s necessary to be able to do both – perform the steps and create the steps,” Kohlmyer said. “And that’s what we teach.”

Foley questions whether cognitive malfunction might rather be heightened awareness in “This Is How You Lose Her.” In this, his newest work, he uses the symptomatic diagnosis of schizophrenia as a point of departure for exploring a physical language for the mind/body/spirit.

Parks’ “Ode to Límon Opus 2” pays tribute to the famed Mexican dancer and choreographer José Limón who was a pioneer in modern dance and Parks’ mentor. Of the creator of the “Límon technique” critic Clive Barnes said, “His dancing had a quality that can be best expressed as moral fervor…It was hypnotic, even more, it was almost tangible.” Parks work seeks to capture the essence of his style.

“Jose encouraged me to dance with grace and strength,” Parks said. “Jose was also a painter whose major subject matter was landscapes. In the concert the audience will hopefully see the dancers use of space as a paintbrush with the stage as their canvas as the movement patterns move in and out of Bach fugues, cannons and music inversions.”

Scott’s “In the Absence of Light,” seeks out the emotions triggered by light and darkness. Using a computer she records a collection of bars, lines and shapes – variations on a white line of light – projects the result onto the stage and has dancers move in, around and through it.

“I’m interested in what we feel and perceive as the dancers interact with the light,” she said. “We give values to darkness and lightness but when do we feel safety in darkness and vulnerable in the light? How are we moved?”

Robinson, with her composition “El Alma Desencadenada (Soul Unchained),” is focused on “human beings sharing the experience of community, unity and humanity, we become vessels of love rather than vehicles of hatred and the inconsiderate self.

“Using the dance as a universal, transcendent language we dance to come out of the trance imposed upon us by those who use our minds to oppress us for the betterment of one rather than the community. Elitist thinking and exclusivity flee. ‘I’ dissolves into ‘We,’” is how she describes her work. As an instructor specializing in world dance, Robinson called on African influences in the composition of this piece that come through in the movements and costumes that are accompanied by live drumming.

"The current state of the human condition is what inspired this work," Robinson said. "It seeks to inject the positive vibrations of love into present day. It is a very high energy pieces that celebrates the one breath that we all share. The audience can expect to live each and every moment and movement presented within the dance through the dancers, musicians and our costumes designed by Marilyn Bertch as they feel the community and family embodied in the collective cast."

Students trained to embody professionalism

The dancers in all of the pieces are students who received notices that the auditions would be taking place at the beginning of the school year – that is, graduating high school seniors on their way to college and returning sophomores, juniors and seniors. These are the best of the best.

“All work hard, all have something special to offer,” observed Carroll. “Some dancers have exceptional skills and others may be so haunting in their acting ability that you’re mesmerized by the essence of how they move, you’re drawn to them. Everybody has something.”

As rehearsals shape and fine-tune their performance of the choreographers’ work, the excitement builds.

“They can’t wait to perform, put their costumes on and finally show what they can do,” Carroll said. “The goal in all of the rehearsal training is to be a performing artist. The moment when the curtain rises, there’s a hush that happens, the talking stops, dancers live for that magical moment when hundreds of sets of eyes are waiting to see what they can do and worked hard to do – something others quite honestly can’t do. It’s such a thrill to move and communicate with the body.”

All of the choreographers are proud of the professionalism of USF’s dance program.

“The students are taught by professionals to function as professionals,” Carroll said. “And you will see that professionalism in every detail – hair, makeup, costumes, their etiquette – observing the rules about how you enter and leave the stage – everything is exactly as it is done in the real world. We teach what to expect so they are prepared.”

Scott added that “There’s a dignity and maturity” instilled in the dancers that comes with this approach.

Participation in conferences and dance festivals can extend the life of these pieces.

“We want as many people as possible to see the work because we want the work to have a longer life,” Scott said.

The choreographers will be in the audience enjoying the program with everyone else. By the time the performances take place the dancers have earned their trust.

As Scott explained, in an observation that applies to all of their compositions and all the dancers, “Once the curtain goes up, it’s theirs not mine anymore.”

Barbara Melendez can be reached at 813-974-4563

photo of Amanda Cox (above) by Anthony Morrison