Contemporary meets history in School of Dance season opener

September 27 2022

Kicking off the 2022-23 season, the School of Dance presents “The School of Dance Concert,” showcasing premiere works by faculty artists Brent Schneider and Sara Pickett, along with the historical repertory works Fokine's “Les Sylphides,” staged by faculty member Maggie Wright Tesch, and “Songs of The Disinherited,” a classic work by Donald McKayle, restaged by Modern Dance MFA candidate, Irishia Hubbard.

The show brings together a mélange of flavors of the classical and contemporary, historical and modern day.

It takes a tremendous amount of coordination, time, and work to bring these historical pieces back to life in 2022. Contractual agreements with the historical legacies of Fokine and McKayle are in place to maintain the integrity of the legacy of the work as it is reconstructed on students in the School of Dance.

Donald McKayle’s “Songs of The Disinherited” is a work that reflects the African diaspora and the idea of coming to the new world restaged by current MFA candidate Irishia Hubbard. 

“When I explain it to my students, I like to start by just the title, disinherited — and what that means, and thinking of those stories of people from my own culture whose voices and stories were not heard and how do we as performers and artists bring those stories back to the forefront,” said Hubbard.

“The students have invested so much in this process. I think it’s important not only for them to showcase the spectrum of work that they’re capable of doing, but also it’s important to bring black stories to the stage, and stories not just of black trauma, but of black liberation,” added Hubbard. (View the video below for a deeper look into the process.)

“The process for dancing “Les Sylphides” starts with asking permission from the Fokine estate which the School of Dance has been granted for the third time. The first time we had to send videos of our performances for them to okay us,” said Wright Tesch. “The piece appears to be of the romantic style but is actually one of the earliest neo-classical works and Fokine was strongly influenced by Isadora Duncan and the rise of modern dance. There is more movement from the waist and back than a typical romantic period piece.”

“This concert is especially rewarding as the clarity and variety of each choreographer’s vision is distinctly unique. Each time the curtain opens, the feel and atmosphere of the dance is uniquely its own,” said Brent Schneider, concert director and professor for the School of Dance. “The works showcased in this performance represent choreography from an expansive time span; Michel Fokine’s work was choreographed in 1909, Donald McKayle’s work in 1972, my work in 2000, and Sara Pickett’s work in 2022.”

Sara Pickett’s new piece "Skin + Bones” starts with the question, “What do you have?” 

“By implication, the question requires consideration of what one does not have and what has been taken away,” said Pickett. “In these times, when a generation now has fewer bodily rights than the previous, we struggle for the path toward empowerment and, perhaps, joy,” she added.

Schneider’s work, “Excerpts from Life” features a mix of solos, duets, trios, and group sections seamlessly woven together to create a cohesive whole. “I took inspiration for the choreography from The People, Yes the longest and most complex poem Carl Sandburg ever wrote. Penned in 1936, the poem’s themes and imagery speak just as relevantly today as when the poem was written,” said Schneider. “The score for the work features lines from the poem in addition to an eclectic mix of musical scores, both classical and contemporary.”

The School of Dance concert opens Sept. 29, at the Marriott Center for Dance. Don’t miss your chance to see an incredibly powerful and historically important evening of dance.

The Details

The School of Dance Concert runs for two weeks. Showtimes in the Marriott Center for Dance are:

Sept 29 at 5:30 p.m. (live performance streamed online)
Sept 30 at 7:30 p.m. (live performance streamed online)
Oct 1 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. (live performance streamed online)
Oct 6 at 5:30 p.m. 
Oct 7 at 7:30 p.m. 
Oct 8 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. 

The School of Dance Concert will be live-streamed on these dates ONLY at
Sept 29 @ 5:30pm | Sept 30 @ 7:30pm | Oct 1 @ 2:00pm and 7:30pm

In-person tickets can be purchased at for all dates
Free for University of Utah students with a valid UCard through the Arts Pass program
Patrons can also stream the first week of performances live for free