Winterdance features well-received West African choreography

Dancers perform "The Crystal Ballet" at WinterDance rehearsal in Mark A. Chapman Theatre on Wednesday December 3, 2014. WinterDance is K-State's Dance annual fall concert featuring dance styles of jazz, modern, tap, ballet, movement theatre, and African. Event takes place in the Mark A. Chapman Theatre in Nicholas Hall on December 4-6 at 7:30 PM and cost is $10-$15. (Cassandra Nguyen | The Collegian)

The hollow sounds of traditional West African drums could be heard throughout Mark A. Chapman Theatre as K-State’s School of Music, Theatre and Dance students performed their opening number for this year’s Winterdance 2014 on Saturday.

Julie Pentz, program director and associate professor for the School of Music Theatre and Dance, said auditions for the annual event were held during the first week of class at the beginning of the semester. Attendees of the show experienced about eight different dance routines that showcased all different styles of dance, traditions and cultures.

“It (the audition process) featured all dance styles,” Pentz said. “We had modern, jazz, tap, ballet and West African dance. So there was something for everyone.”

According to Pentz, the new Western African piece took herself and instructor Neil Dunn to Ghana on two different trips in order to learn the advanced-level piece.

“It featured five musicians and 17 dancers, so it was a really unique dance,” Pentz said.

The routine, “Bamaya,” is a traditional social dance popular in the Dagomba culture in northern Ghana; the “ornate pom-pom belts” were worn by the dancers to emphasize their hip movements in the choreography.

The event included live music and was choreographed by three choreographers; associate professors David Ollington, Laura Donnelly and Pentz.

This year was Alison Wheatley’s, associate professor and assistant dean in the College of Arts and Sciences, first time attending the annual performance.

“I was really impressed with the range of styles and movements and I love how they incorporated body and sign language,” Wheatley said in reference to the second number —a modern dance routine called “Sorrow/Redemption,” which largely contrasted the upbeat nature of the traditional Ghanian dance in the opening.

Donovan Woods, senior in applied music, said he thought the pieces were thought-provoking and well-versed.

“The Wiggles piece made me think of childbirth,” Woods said. “With my graduation coming up, it made me think of starting a new life.”

Woods said the routine, “Contact Uninvited,” reminded him how technology-driven society is today and it was nice to see the topic of how disconnected society is, touched on.

According to Pentz said, the dancers spent about four to five hours practicing their routine each week on average.

“I thought it was all really fun, and I can tell they put in a lot of time into it,” Peighton Jamison, freshman in theater, said.

One of the dancers from the show, Eli Camp, freshman in business administration, has danced for 15 years and said he really enjoyed learning and performing the African routine, “Bamaya.”

“This was my first year participating, but I’m probably going to perform in the spring dance in 2015,” Camp said.

The show featured a variety of routines and was closed out with a traditional tap dance routine, performed by K-State Tap Ensemble.