Press: Growth of UK Dance Program ‘Amplified’ in Concert, Conference

By UKNow

March 3, 2020


The growth of the Dance Program at University of Kentucky Department of Theatre and Dance takes center stage for the next two weekends on campus as the department presents its annual dance concert, “Amplified,” followed by the American College Dance Association’s South Conference. On the eve of the program’s 10th anniversary, the conference will marks the first time UK has hosted an ACDA conference.

The UK Dance Program began as a minor in the then-Department of Theatre in 2011. In less then three years, the program, under the leadership of Susie Thiel, grew from six to 50 students and its faculty and staff began earning top recognition at national festivals and conferences like the American College Dance Festival and National Dance Education Organization. In recognition of that growth and interest from prospective students, the department adopted its new name of UK Department of Theatre and Dance in 2014.

By 2017, the program’s growth merited the addition of a dance major. Today students may pursue a Bachelor of Arts degree in dance that educates them in the history, theory, creativity, practice and performance of dance. The curriculum incorporates and develops problem solving, collaboration, communication (visual, aural, written and performative), critical thinking, peer mentorship, and project management. Students pursuing a dance major master interpersonal communication skills that incorporate physical authority and assurance.

That growth, success and confidence will be in the spotlight as the program’s annual dance concert, “Amplified,” storms the stage March 6-8. The concert will feature UK dance majors and minors giving life to work by four renowned choreographers and one of their fellow students.

After a week-long residency, Louisville-based choreographer and Louisville Ballet dancer Sanjay Saverimuttu developed a new ensemble dance work. His new work, “Against the Waves,” is inspired by the real-life story of Sonali Deraniyagala, a survivor of the 2004 tsunami that hit the west coast of Sri Lanka. Saverimuttu not only depicts the story of how Deraniyagala lost her parents, husband and two children to the deadly waves, but also her emotional recovery and how one deals with grief after such a life altering event.

“This dance work is an exploration of how one doesn’t necessarily get past grief, but healing can only begin by confronting one’s memories, not ignoring them,” Saverimuttu said.

Music for this piece is by the all-female group, AVA, from their album, “Waves.” As a queer Sri Lankan–American, Saverimuttu aims to create dance that provides audiences with an emotional connection to perspectives outside the realm of what is typical for classical ballet. His work creates a safe space for audiences to see themselves, learn, and expand their scope of understanding. Those who wish to learn more of Deraniyagala’s story are encouraged to read her debut memoir, “Wave.”

“Points of Origin” by lecturer Stephanie Harris is a collaborative dance work which explores structured improvisation within the live performance setting and seeks to answer the question, “What do we bring into a performance space with us and how do those aspects of our being influence how a dance work can be shaped?” During each performance the dancers will seek to find form within a world of their own making that they will navigate collectively. The work will be embedded with cues created during the rehearsal process that will lead the dancers through the work accordingly. Concepts such as embracing stillness, discovering multiplicities for moment, spontaneous flight and learning how to yield have inspired this work.

Theresa Bautista, choreographer, UK dance instructor and founder of Moving Collective​ in Louisville, Kentucky, is an avid people watcher and human behavior is often a source of inspiration for many of her works. Her latest rumination on society began when she walked through the University of Kentucky campus and wondered why some of her students would greet her and others obviously pretended not to see her.

When it is human nature to create community, what goes into making the choice to engage or evade? Bautista’s new work, “Look ‘em in the Eye” is an abstract, non-narrative work whose movement language is developed by these observations of human encounters, whether harmonious or acrimonious, and the emotional responses to being warmly greeted, aggressively attacked or dismissively ignored. This work will represent the UK Department of Theatre and Dance at next week’s ACDA conference.

Guest choreographer Jade Bloshuk set “Centerfold” on eight dance majors and minors in four days. “Centerfold” premiered at the University of Florida Fall BFA Showcase “Unhinged” in 2018. “Centerfold” had the opportunity to be presented once again at the American College Dance Association Conference adjudication concert and later selected to be performed in the ACDA Southeastern Gala Concert in Oxford, Mississippi.

“Centerfold” is a choreographic exploration of gender roles in media. This piece focuses on the stereotyping of women that occurs throughout mass media channels. Through daily media onslaughts, many people are exposed to unrealistic ideas of what proper female behavior is, the normality of inappropriate relationships between men and women, and the overall underrepresentation of realistic depictions of women. “The work seeks to illuminate the developmental effect media has on society; it colors our relationships, goals,and values,” Bloshuk said.

UK dance and pre-pharmacy sophomore Sylvannah Regalado’s work “IT’S AL-WHITE” is personal. “IT’S AL-WHITE” represents pieces of a story that have been collected throughout Regalado’s journey of moving to and growing up in America. It integrates the emotions of stepping into the unknown and moving through bouts of confusion. As a young Filipino-American woman she has faced discrimination and racism. Her work reflects on the internal and external pressures that result from exclusion and self-doubt. It also incorporates the feelings that come with true discomfort and dislike in your own body.

“IT’S AL-WHITE” strives to provide a new perspective and self-reflection for the audience. Regalado hopes to keep the conversation going. This work will represent UK’s student choreography at the ACDA conference.

“Amplified” featuring the five works detailed above will take center stage 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, March 6-7, and 2 p.m. Sunday, March 8. Tickets are $10 for students with a university ID and $15 for the general public, plus additional processing fees. Seating is reserved. To purchase tickets to UK Theatre and Dance’s productions at Guignol Theatre, contact the Singletary Center by phone at 859-257-4929, visit online at, or in person at the ticket office.

UK Department of Theatre and Dance will host American College Dance Association’s South Conference March 14-17. A celebration of dance in higher education, the conference schedule will include a wide variety of master classes, scholarly research presentations, opportunities for student and faculty exchanges in and out of the studio, adjudication and informal concerts, feedback sessions and a Gala Concert. The department is also planning for special faculty seminars and workshops and other opportunities for faculty development.

“UK Dance has been attending this conference since the start of the dance program in the College of Fine Arts nine years ago,” Thiel said. “The American College Dance Conference continually shapes UKs students’ creative endeavors, technical dancing and overall conception of the art of dance. I am gratified and proud that we get to be part of doing this for not only our students, but 350 other dance students studying throughout the region.”

Bluegrass audiences wishing to seeing what collegiate dance looks like across the region are welcome to take in all ACDA’s adjudicated concerts and the closing gala beginning 7:30 p.m., March 14-17, in the Singletary Center for the Arts Concert Hall. To see a schedule of these free concerts and featured performers visit here.

The Department of Theatre and Dance, part of UK College of Fine Arts, provides students hands-on training and one-on-one mentorship from professional theatre and dance faculty and renowned guest artists in acting, directing, playwriting, theatrical design and technology, and dance. From mainstage productions to student-produced shows, students have plenty of opportunities to participate on stage or backstage. Special programs include a musical theatre certificate, education abroad, as well as a thriving dance program that emphasizes technique, composition, performance and production.

The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion three years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for” two years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes’ list of “America’s Best Employers.”  We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for four straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.

Sanjay Saverimuttu. Photo courtesy of UKNow.