Dance Spectrum to honor professors in “Departures”

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The Dance Department will goodbye to two professors during the spring semester’s Dance Spectrum Concert “Departures” in the Gaertner Performing Arts Center from April 25 through 27 at 8 p.m.

The concert will feature performances from graduate students and will feature a variety of styles such as ballet, modern, tap and aerial just to name a few.

“This semester’s concert is titled ‘Departures’ because we are using it as a platform to honor two departing professors,” graduate student Amy Wright said.

The two professors being honored are Jonathan Charles Smith, who died in February, and Cindy Gratz, Ph.D., who is retiring at the end of this semester.

Wright feels like Smith deserved the honor being bestowed upon him.

“He was a valued teacher, a brilliant creative mind, and a mentor who, always with a wink and an outrageous story, turned countless students into artists,” Wright said.

The piece that Smith was working on at the time of his death, titled “Illinois Jackass” was practiced by Wright and her cast members and will be performed during the show. The piece will be performed the way that Smith left it. Two other pieces will be performed in honor of Smith including his award-winning “Red Socks” and “The Dying Swan”.

Wright hopes that students walk away from the concert having been touched by some part of the performance.

“I would personally encourage everyone to see the show with an open mind that allows them to take away from it whatever they can,” Wright said. “Whether that’s pure joy from the entertainment in it, an appreciation for the beauty of the dancers’ technique or the theatrical design, or a more emotional reaction to the deeper content of the work shown.”

Gratz has taught for more than 20 years at SHSU, is also being honored during the concert.

“I have loved every moment and will remember only the wonderful, magical, moments that I shared with a group of people whom love and respect,” Gratz said. “It is I who should be honoring them.”

Gratz encourages students to attend and feels like the beauty of dance is something that needs to be experienced.

“I hope that students will become aware of their tendencies to want to see on a video screen those performances that they need to see live,” Gratz said. “It makes a difference to the entire production if you are there. You, as an observer, are an important aspect of what happens on the stage.”

“Departures” will also feature an aerial piece titled “Wrapped up in the Dream”, choreographed by graduate student Alicia Carlin.

“I was inspired by the pursuit of The American Dream and the idea that ‘the man upstairs’ is controlling things while average people live out their daily routines as they struggle to get to the top, wherever that may be,” Carlin said. “The story plays out as a dream within a dream where some dancers are dreaming and some are the characters in the dream.”

Other performances include a ballet piece choreographed by dance professor Dana Nicolay, a contemporary piece titled “Fear Knot” by guest artist David Justin, as well as a large cast performance of “Shift”, among many others.

Carlin hopes students to enjoy the diversity of the performances and to leave feeling fufilled with the experience.

“It is my hope that students will walk away from the performance feeling inspired to pursue whatever they are passionate about,” Carlin said. “Students might laugh or cry and if nothing else they won’t be able to suppress a smile.”