Elemental Dance 45

Wind. Water. Fire. Earth. Dance!

The elements get physical this March in Dance 45, the annual presentation of dance works choreographed and designed by Hope dance faculty and guest artists. This concert is always a highlight for the department as it culminates an intense rehearsal process for more than 50 student performers that participate each year. An additional 20 students make up the backstage crews, assisting with lighting, sound, costuming and stage management.

In the dance department, the concert itself, when speaking generally, is affectionately called Dance X, but the actual number is significant. This year it represents 45 years of the dance department going strong, educating, training and cultivating the creativity of young artists, all while maintaining the highest level of artistry for the stage.

Choreography is the dance department’s primary means of scholarship, so the works produced are the artistic equivalence of scholarly publication. Whether producing locally, nationally or internationally, each choreographer spends countless hours in research and rehearsal.

With a throughline response to the elements of wind, water, fire and earth, the subject matter of individual works ranges from lighthearted to contemplative, from carefree communal celebration to mourning, oppression and suffering.

In 2013, the dance department began the practice of hiring an esteemed, professional artist-educator to offer peer review for Dance X. Reviewing this year’s concert will be Paul Abrahamson, director of the Chicago Ballet Center. Abrahamson will evaluate choreography based not only on its compositional design and overall statement (use of space, dynamic range, creativity and integrity of the movement), but also on how the work itself compares to other works presented inside and outside of academia.

Right up until opening night of Dance 45 on Friday, March 1, choreographers and performers continue working. With a throughline response to the elements of wind, water, fire and earth, the subject matter of individual works ranges from lighthearted to contemplative, from carefree communal celebration to mourning, oppression and suffering. Each work falls within the styles of ballet, hip hop, jazz and contemporary, and each is as different as the choreographers creating them. This year’s choreographers include faculty members Nicole Flinn, Crystal Frazier, Linda Graham, Julie Powell and Angela Yetzke, along with guest artists Richard Rivera (NY) and Sharon Wong (FL).

And as always, Dance X (45) attenders should expect exciting surprises from concert designers Erik Alberg and Darlene Veenstra. (Hint: Better bring your umbrella if you sit in the front row!)

Finally, this year’s concert will be a special one, the last hurrah of beloved faculty member and former department chair Linda Graham who heads into retirement in May. Graham will present Chair Study, a crowd favorite first seen in 1989. Dancers will contemplate the element of wood through crazy stunts and thought-provoking humanity in signature Linda Graham style.

So, come celebrate with us. Let’s dance.

Tickets to Dance 45 can be purchased online, in person at the Hope College Ticket Office, or at the door on the evening of the performances. Adult tickets are $10, seniors $7, and children $5.

A Paul Galbraith Performance: It’s Personal

Paul Galbraith
Paul Galbraith

When the Grammy-nominated classical guitarist Paul Galbraith performs at Hope College on March 1, it will be his fourth appearance on our campus. While I’ve presented many artists to Hope over the years, no one has made four visits. Until now.

Galbraith is unique, not only in his skill on guitar, but also because he has been instrumental in moving the classical guitar world through the sometimes hard wall of what constitutes classical music. . . and that does not usually include a guitar. He surprises people with his playing ability, his interpretations of classical standards, and even his one-of-a-kind playing style.

Presenting the performing arts is part of my work at Hope. For 20 years, I have listened to countless recordings, attended performances, watched videos, and read scripts in the search for the right performers to bring to the Hope and Holland communities. So, when the performers finally reach our stage, I’m already very familiar with their work. I have an idea what to expect.

But once and awhile, someone surprises me.

I was not raised on classical music and have little formal training. Fortunately, you do not need that to enjoy and indeed be moved by a performance. I remember one of the first performers I booked here was the pianist Sergio Tiempo who performed Maurice Ravel’s  Gaspard de la nuit.” I was caught off guard by the power of each single note creating a haunting scene. One note, played quietly, sounding like a distant bell tolling to announce a death.

More recently, Trio Con Brio Copenhagen performed Bedrich Smetana’s “Trio in G minor” and it pulled hard at me. Instinctively I recognized it as a piece on grief. It was only later, when I read the trio’s program notes, did I realize that Smetana wrote the piece in response to the death of his five-year-old daughter. As a parent of a child who died far too young, Smetana’s piece reached across 200 years to grieve with me. This is what art can do.

Johann Sebastian Bach
Johann Sebastian Bach

My response has also been strong to anything written by Bach. The clean, structured pieces can be playful or thoughtful, but they are always stunningly beautiful. This “beautiful” probably resonates more strongly with me because for Bach, who has been called “The Fifth Evangelist,” that beauty comes from God. While the pieces by Ravel and Smetana address our sorrows, Bach addresses our hope. Perhaps that is why whenever I see that Bach is on the program, I know I’m going to leave the concert with a renewed faith.

My experience of this has been most strong when hearing Paul Galbraith perform Bach. He clearly loves that 17th century composer as his work appears on five of Galbraith’s eight recordings. Two of his recordings focus on Bach alone and his 1998 recording of Bach’s complete Sonatas and Partitas received a Grammy nomination, ended up in Billboard’s Top Ten classical chart, and was called a “landmark in the history of guitar recordings” by Gramophone Magazine.

While his Grammy nomination got him some attention, his development of  the 8-string guitar that he plays like a cello makes him instantly recognizable.

Better than any award, the legend of classical guitar, Andreas Segovia, heard the then 17-year-old Galbraith play and declared, “Paul is magnificent. He will be a great artist.”  Not surprising, Segovia was right. Galbraith enjoys a great solo career but was also a founding member of the highly regard Brazilian Guitar Quartet (even though he is from Scotland!). He is in demand to perform with chamber groups and orchestras and is now working with the great Brazilian cellist Antonio Meneses.

Galbraith’s program at Hope is more varied this time and I have no doubt all of it will be excellent. Plus, the chance to hear him perform in the acoustically superior concert hall at the Jack H. Miller Center is too good to miss. If you have never heard a classical guitar concert, there will be no better first experience than this concert.

By the way, he opens the performance with Bach.

And, I’ll be happy.

Tickets to the Paul Galbraith concert can be purchased online, in person at the Hope College Ticket Office, or at the door on the evening of the performance. Adult tickets are $10, seniors $7, and children $5.

Recognition Galore for Hope Theatre at the KCACT Regional Festival

At the festival, Hope College students wait for the curtain to rise on the University of Wisconsin La-Crosse’s production of “The Laramie Project.”

In January, a large group of Hope College theatre students embarked on a memorable and enlightening trip to Madison, Wisconsin, to participate in the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Region III Festival. KCACTF is a national theater program involving 18,000 students from colleges and universities nationwide, a network of more than 600 academic institutions throughout the country, where theater departments and student artists showcase their work and receive outside assessment by KCACTF respondents. KCACTF hosts festivals in eight regions across the nation. Hope College participated in the Region III festival with other colleges from Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, and Wisconsin. At the festival, students have the opportunity to showcase their skills in dramaturgy, acting, stage management, musical theatre, playwriting and design.

This year, KCACTF  recognized Shiloh, a recent Hope production written by the cast and faculty director Richard Perez. The ensemble of Shiloh was awarded a certificate of Merit for Excellence in Collaborative Performance. Theatre faculty lighting and sound designer Perry Landes was awarded a Certificate of Merit for Excellence in Projections Design. Senior Katrina Dykstra designed costumes for this production and received a Theatrical Design Excellence award for her work. As a result of the award,  Dykstra has garnered a coveted, fully-funded opportunity to attend the national festival in Washington D.C. this May.

Senior Katrina Dykstra presenting her winning costume designs from Hope College devised-piece, “Shiloh.”

“I had such a great time at ACTF this year presenting my costume design for Shiloh!,” said Dykstra. “I always love getting criticism from other professors and theatre professionals, so getting to present for so many interesting judges was great. I was so surprised to be selected to be in finals, and even more surprised to receive an award. I’m looking forward to going to Washington D.C. with the national festival. I’m going to learn so much from the seminars and workshops, and meet so many people in the theatre world!”

Hope College theatre also received praise for their work on this year’s production of Into The Woods by receiving a remarkable number of Certificate of Merit Awards:

KCACTF also hosts competitions for students to showcase their work, and several Hope College students received awards for their artistry.

Junior Gracen Barth was the recipient of the Don Childs Award for Excellence in Stagecraft, providing her a fully-funded opportunity to further develop her skills by attending the Stagecraft Institute of Las Vegas, Nevada, in July of 2020. Barth was also awarded a production manager’s toolkit.

Senior Megan Clark presenting her costume designs for “Arcadia.”

“With production management being a relatively new field, especially on a collegiate level, it was truly an honor to be recognized for my work on this level,” said Barth. “I’m looking forward to being able to further my skills at the Stagecraft Institute of Las Vegas.”

Senior Megan Clark was recognized for her Into The Woods design presentation for properties, as well as her Arcadia costume design presentation.

As an active member of KCACTF, Hope College receives responses from faculty of  partner schools who attend a performance of each production. The respondent often takes notes during the show and provides valuable feedback to the acting, design, stage management and directing. The respondent then can provide special recognition by nominating production participants for regional awards like those previously mentioned. They also select one or two cast members that they felt had a superb performance. These students each receive an invitation to participate in the annual Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship Competition, which occurs at the festival. Each participant works on a monologue and two scenes with a selected partner.

There is something so electric about spending a few days where hundreds of  like-minded passionate artists are gathered to share and celebrate theatre.

Freshmen Emi Herman was nominated for her portrayal of Laney in Crooked. Madison Meeron was her scene partner. Senior Olivia Lehnertz was nominated for her interpretation of Cinderella in Into The Woods. Gracen Barth was her scene partner. Junior Katie Joachim was nominated for her performance as The Baker’s Wife in Into The Woods. Maxwell Lam was her partner.

Joachim and Lam made it to the semifinals of the Irene Ryan auditions. Joachim also auditioned alongside 100 other students to participate in a Musical Theatre Showcase. She was then selected to join 14 others from around the region to perform in a cabaret-style performance where she delivered a heartfelt performance of  “Mr. Snow.”

Students and faculty had an enriching and fulfilling time at the festival this year. There is something so electric about spending a few days where hundreds of  like-minded passionate artists are gathered to share and celebrate theatre. We are grateful to have had this experience and look forward to attending The Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival again in the future.

Perform, Teach, and Treat: The Different Careers of Hope Dancers

The Hope College dance department has long prided itself on the versatility of both its curricular programming as well as the careers of its alumni. Founded on the principle, “if you have a love of dance, we have a place for you,” dance  professor-emeritus Maxine DeBruyn founded and established a program that has — for the last 45 years — produced alumni who are changing the idea of what it means to make dance a part of one’s lifelong career.

Jennifer Muisenga ’12 Florey

Jennifer Muisenga ’12 Florey was a dance education major at Hope. During her senior year, she completed her student teaching in Chicago and went on to become the assistant director of Auroris Dance Company in the Chicago suburbs. During the summer of 2013, she accepted a teaching position at Kofa High School in Yuma, Arizona, directing the dance program. She is currently in her last semester at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro completing her thesis to receive her master of arts in dance education.

Asked about her time in the Hope College dance department Flory stated, “the Hope dance program provided me with a well-rounded education in order to provide my students with the best education. The professors pushed me outside my comfort zone and always saw the potential in me. I always felt supported in everything I did, and I continue to feel supported by them to this day.”

Tim Heck ’04

After graduating in 2004 from Hope College as a theater and dance major, Tim Heck continued his training with regional dance companies such as Eisenhower Dance Ensemble, Thodos Dance Chicago and Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago. From 2006-2013, Tim originated work and performed with Lucky Plush Productions, Blue Man Group, the circus punk marching band Mucca Pazza, Molly Shanahan/Mad Shak, 500 Clown, Redmoon Theater, and the small-top circus tent Le Tigre Tent.  He taught modern dance technique at Lou Conte Dance Studios and was a teaching artist with Hubbard Street Dance Chicago.  In 2013, Tim was hired by Sleep No More in New York City – a groundbreaking, immersive, dance, theater event created by the British-based company Punchdrunk. As of 2018, Tim is performing in Sleep No More in Shanghai, China, where he lives with his wife, Hope, who serves as the production’s resident director.

“In my experience at the Hope College dance department, I was able to learn by doing,” Heck says.  “While I was regularly getting demanding technical instruction that I needed as a fresh dancer, I was also able to practice the art regularly.  It very directly laid the groundwork for what I have continued doing since.”

Dr. Kathleen Davenport ’03

Kathleen L. Davenport ’03 majored in both dance and French at Hope on a pre-medicine track for medical school. Today, she is a fellowship-trained sports, performing arts and dance medicine physician. Following her medical school graduation and residency, Davenport then completed a spine and sports fellowship at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, NY, where she worked with physician leaders in dance medicine and published peer-reviewed articles on hip pain, and platelet rich plasma injections. Dr. Davenport currently works in South Florida and serves the local dance community as the Company Physician for Miami City Ballet, Board of Directors for Boca Ballet Theatre, and as affiliate professor at Florida Atlantic University Department of Theatre. She serves on the Board of Directors for the International Association for Dance Medicine and Science (IADMS) and serves on multiple committees for the Performing Arts Medicine Association (PAMA).

“Hope College helped prepare me for this dance medicine journey. I was introduced to IADMS and joined the organization while at Hope and now sit on the Board of Directors. I have spoken to dance medicine and science professionals around the world, and Hope remains the only institution to my knowledge to offer a unique degree in dance and pre-med. Thanks to Hope, I have been set up for success in all aspects of life, personally and professionally.”