ECU students and faculty present annual spring dance showcase

A range of dance styles and genres, from jazz and African to ballet and modern, takes center stage this weekend in East Carolina University’s annual spring Dance@Wright performance.

“There is truly something on the program for everyone,” said Jessica Teague, assistant director of ECU’s School of Theatre and Dance and assistant professor of dance.

The dance extravaganza will open with new work from guest artist and ECU alumna Kanon Sapp. After graduating from ECU, Sapp founded her own contemporary dance company, Loose Kanon Dance, in New York City in 2018. She returns to share her professional experience with ECU students and has created a dynamic and thought-provoking work called “Satnin,” Teague said.

See the Show

7:30 p.m. Friday
2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday
Wright Auditorium

Tickets are $20 for the general public, $15 for seniors/ECU faculty and staff, and $10 for students and youth.

Another highlight of the show will be an original contemporary piece, “Hung by the Socket,” choreographed by ECU senior Marissa Miller of Greenville. Each spring, one student is chosen through a competitive selection process to create new work for the show. “The piece she has made is quite extraordinary,” Teague said.

“Hung by the Socket” draws from a previous piece of choreography that Miller did that left her questioning how much control people have over their own existence, she said.

“I am heavily drawn to imagery when creating movement works. During my research and diving into different visuals that lingered in my mind, I was pulled toward ideas of puppetry. I also had this idea of multiple desires existing within someone,” she said.

Miller visualized a puppet’s strings hanging from someone’s eye sockets, and thought more about who manipulates the strings. “Is it oneself? Is it others? Is it fate?” she asked. “The realm beneath our sockets is merely scratched by our outside preservations. In this realm under our tangible enlacement, much festers, yearning to be pulled out. For whom pulls the strings of our existence? For what power do we hold over ourselves, what control do we truly possess amidst the ideas of a preconceived fate? In questioning the vitality of freewill, we must first question the nature of humanity.”

Miller said the piece holds an important place in her and she is grateful for the experience. She said she is honored to have guidance and support from ECU faculty, especially John Dixon, who has been her creative mentor the past three years.

A ballerina performs a grand jeté during rehearsal for Dance@Wright.

“I have been working with the most dedicated and raw cast of dancers that I am grateful to call my peers,” Miller said. “There is a beautiful dance between dancer and choreographer where movement is given, then interpreted, and molded until it becomes what was once merely a thought. To me, the best feeling in the world is to be in a creative space with open-minded dancers who truly see each other and discover together.”

Dance@Wright also features an original piece titled “Lamban/Doudounba” by guest faculty Merinda Evans, whose dancers have created their own unique costumes for the show. The work highlights traditional West African dances from Guinea. Lamban is a dance and rhythm for celebrations and blessings, while Doudounba is a dance and rhythm associated with war that symbolizes strength and courage, Teague said.

New ECU faculty members Sayward Grindley and Timothy Lynch have choreographed pieces for the showcase.

Grindley created a contemporary work called “What Remains,” inspired by the death of her father after a multi-decade battle with Alzheimer’s, and her 11 years of caregiving. She hopes viewers will find connections to their own lives, relationships and journeys.

“I wanted to investigate the idea of memory but also legacy, and what we take with us, but also what we leave behind when we are gone,” Grindley said.

The work’s 17 dancers contributed to making “What Remains,” with music by Yann Tiersen, which field recordings of various landscapes and almost forgotten languages, she said.

“I asked the dancers to write journal entries based on memories of their own, things they remember and don’t know why, things they want to hold onto and keep in their memory, and what they’d like to be remembered for or leave behind ­— anywhere along their journey,” Grindley said. “The journal entries inspired the initial movement material, along with my own phrase work from my personal memories and experiences, and then used throughout the work in a group collaborative effort of building and layering, learning from each other, sharing movement and stories, using traces of each other’s movement, and building new material from those experiences.”

Lynch choreographed a 12-person contemporary ballet piece with pointe work titled “Shades of Meaning,” an abstract exploration into the psychological and physiological effects that color can have on individuals or a group.

“The dancers form many different relationships throughout the piece, and many dance genres are displayed, from classical and contemporary ballet to modern and contemporary forms, partnering and lifts, as well as some current dance styles such as whacking,” Lynch said.

The music is a recomposed version of two of Vivaldi’s “Summer” tracks from the Four Seasons with a short minimalistic score in the middle titled “Ferme Les Yeux,” he said.

“The piece was created in collaboration with the dancers, and I enjoyed the process very much,” Lynch said. “I know I pushed them outside their comfort zone, and they rose to the challenge.”

Students will also perform work by Teague and Tommi Galaska, ECU’s dance area coordinator and teaching associate professor of dance.

In addition, ECU students and community youth will perform together on stage at each showtime in collaboration with local dance studios. The guest studio schedule is:

Friday, 7:30 p.m. — Katura Dance Academy of Greenville

Saturday, 2 p.m. — B*PAC Dance Studio of Wilson

Saturday, 7:30 p.m. — North Carolina Academy of Dance Arts of Greenville

For more information, call 252-328-4186 or email