The University of Texas-Pan American's Dance ensemble performed modern dance in its spring concert and featured an original choreographed dance "The Orange Peel Piñata." Doug Elkins, British hip-hop choreographer and visiting artist, designed the piece with Folkloric dance movements native to the Valley and intertwined with Brazilian martial arts and Flamenco phrases.
"I chose Doug because I knew that he would be able to have a great rapport with our students," said Fred Darsow, dance professor for the UTPA Dance Ensemble. "I knew he would be able to do something interesting with our student's knowledge of Mexican folkloric and flamenco."
Darsow is credited with commissioning the piece. Through his efforts, he was able to obtain grants from the National College Choreography Initiative (NCCI), a leadership initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts, and from the Dana Foundation. The grants provided the financial support needed to invite Elkins to campus to work with the UTPA dancers. The grants also allowed for the commission of the original music score that accompanied the performance, written by internationally known composer Evren Celimli.
"It is so much more fun and special when you are creating a piece for a company rather than just restaging something from before. This is their work, their music," Darsow said.
The spring concert started with a bang, in "Flock and Bang," choreographed by guest artist, Raymond Shaw. Shaw, originally from Cleveland, Ohio, now resides in Scottsdale, Arizona. He is an award winning director, performer, choreographer and instructor at Arizona State University. He worked extensively with the UTPA dancers on his eclectic, funny and frenetic piece designed to wake-up audiences. The piece is a favorite of Shaw's and he wanted to share it with Valley audiences.
"I just like the way the piece moves," Shaw said. "It takes on a life of its own."
UTPA's own dance professors, Dana Shackelford, Melinda Blomquist and Darsow, completed the concert with their equally compelling and moving pieces designed to ensnare the senses with illusion, dance and rhythm.
"This concert with six pieces basically has been worked on since September. Everything was made this year; nothing was recycled from the past. Lots of rehearsals to put the pieces together and clean them up," Darsow said.
Because most people may not know or understand modern dance, the evening concluded with a post-performance discussion that allowed the chorographers to discuss their processes and answer audience questions.
For more information about UTPA's Dance Ensemble please call Fred Darsow at 956/381-2315.