Celebrating movement through Contemporary New Works

November 10 2023

The recently passed dance legend Joan Woodbury once said, “It was through movement that I understood life.” This concept is explored in Contemporary New Works, the vibrant concert presented by the School of Dance this month. Concert director Daniel Clifton urges audiences to prepare for “dances that celebrate creativity, physicality, humanity, and our collective exploration of self, one another, and the world around us.” 

Contemporary New Works will take place on the Hayes Memorial Theatre stage in the Marriott Center for Dance with performances from Nov. 9 through Nov. 18. The concert presents new works choreographed by guest artists jo Blake and Gesel Mason, as well as faculty artists Sara Pickett and Daniel Clifton, all of which will be performed by majors and minors in the School of Dance. Cumulatively, the performance will “present the human body in ways that transcend mere entertainment,” said Clifton.  

The concert will begin with a piece directed by Clifton, Associate Professor (Lecturer) in the School of Dance, titled “Ribbons of Rust and Analog Magnetic Memories.” The piece, which draws inspiration from post-punk aesthetics, “weaves together nostalgia, post-punk, memory, lost connections, and the activation of voice,” he said.  

Next, guest artist jo Blake presents his piece “a single strand in a spider’s web,” dedicated to WSU dancer Courtney Conver Harris as well as Professor Emeritus Joan Woodbury, and set to music by Italian composer Ezio Bosso. Blake thanked the School of Dance students for their “ability to devour material, explore possibilities, and nurture my creative intention.”  

Following Blake’s piece is “Seraph,” choreographed by guest Gesel Mason. This piece is based on a solo Mason created and performed in 1998 titled “Black Angel,” which was a response to the murder of James Byrd Jr. in Jasper, TX. This murder was eventually recognized in the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Acted, signed in 2009. Now, 25 years after Byrd’s death, Mason has restaged that original solo for six dancers. “This work grapples with humanity’s ongoing relationship with violence and hate,” stated Mason.  

Lastly, the concert will end with “One and Nine,” a piece choreographed by Associate Professor (lecturer) Sara Pickett in collaboration with the dancers. The piece was conceptualized by considering “how social media creates space for performing and watching,” said Pickett. “What emerged was a celebration of the group and joy in dancing for and with one another.”  

Tickets for the show can be purchased at tickets.utah.edu and at the door. University of Utah students get free access with their student ID thanks to the Arts Pass program, which makes hundreds of arts experiences accessible to U students each year.