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Dance To Honor Faculty With ‘Departures’ Concert

April 19, 2013
SHSU Media Contact: Jennifer Gauntt

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The Sam Houston State University Department of Dance will say “goodbye” to two professors “who have given much to our community and the successful development of the department” during their spring 2013 dance spectrum concert “Departures,” Thursday through Saturday (April 25-27).

Performances will begin at 8 p.m. each day, with a 2 p.m. Saturday matinee, in the James and Nancy Gaertner Performing Arts Center Dance Theatre.

Jonathan Charles Smith on a city street at night
Dancers will remember Jonathan Charles Smith, who passed away Feb. 14, by performing three of his notable dances. —Submitted photo

The concert will honor the late Jonathan Charles Smith, an assistant professor of dance who died on Feb. 14, as well as Cindy Gratz, a professor of dance who is retiring at the end of the semester, according to Dionne Sparkman Noble, assistant professor of dance.

“Departures” will pay tribute to Smith, who taught at SHSU for nearly 20 years, with the presentation of three of his works, including his award-winning “Red Socks.”

“At the time of his death, Jonathan was working on a new tap piece he named ‘Illinois Jackass,’” Noble said. “Graduate student Amy Wright, with the help of her fellow cast members, continued to work on the piece after his passing and will present it in its raw form as his final creation.

The final piece will be Charles’s “The Dying Swan,” an excerpt from his choreographic contribution to the School of Music’s production of “Carnival of the Animals” earlier in the semester, presented by dancer Romney Thomas.

“Jonathan was an inspiring teacher and versatile choreographer who choreographed works ranging from timeless classic ballets to raucous entertainment pieces,” Noble said. “He proudly served both the department of dance and the department of theatre and musical theatre in his teaching, directing, choreographing and mentoring of the students in both areas.”

Dancers will give a “special send-off” to Gratz by highlighting her more than 20 years of teaching and service at SHSU.

Highlights from her career include directing both the Texas World Dance Company and The Prime Time Dancers for senior citizens, organizations aimed at bridging the gap between dance and the community; and receiving Dance Teacher Magazine’s 2010 “Dance Teacher of the Year for Higher Education Award.”

“Dr. Gratz’s contributions to the growth of the dance program have been wide reaching, from her insightful development of the graduate program to her research in world dance forms and her thought-provoking choreography,” Noble said.

Cindy Gratz in dance studio
Cindy Gratz, who has taught at SHSU for more than 20 years, will retire at the end of the semester. —Submitted photo

Additional works that will be presented each evening include “Fear Knot,” a “dynamic contemporary work with an unusual lighting installation” by guest artist David Justin, former principle dancer with the Birmingham Royal Ballet (UK); an architectural ballet point piece, “Shaving the Stone,” that is set to Vivaldi and choreographed by dance profesor Dana Nicolay and choreographic assistant Leann Huddleston; and assistant professor of dance Andy Noble’s “a small place,” a dramatic, personal solo work danced by Brittany Thetford.

Noble and Sparkman Noble also will collaborate with graduate students David Deveau and Brittany Thetford to present “Shift,” which features a large cast, multiple movable walls, and “projection design in an exploration of the construction and deconstruction that takes place in our daily lives,” Sparkman Noble said.

Rounding out the evening will be aerial work “Wrapped Up in a Dream” by graduate student Alicia Carlin and a solo work by graduate student Laura Harrell, “Milestones and Monuments,” both of which represented SHSU at this year’s American College Dance Festival. During the competition, Harrell’s work was selected for the “gala performance.”

Tickets are $15 for general admission and $12 for senior citizens and students.

For more information, or to purchase tickets, call the GPAC Box Office at 936.294.2339.



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