School of Dance Gala combines Live orchestra and new works by famed artists

March 02 2018

 This year’s Gala concert will bring together amazing talents from the School of Dance ballet and modern dance programs as well as artists from the U’s School of Music, March 16th and 17th at 7:30PM. This eclectic program features traditional pieces, faculty works and new creations by world renowned guest artists Michele Wiles and Matthew Neenan, whose original choreography will be performed by talented UofU dancers accompanied by live music at the iconic Kingsbury Hall. 

 Former American Ballet Theater Principle Artist, Michele Wiles, will not only choreograph new work for the Gala, but will also perform on stage with the UofU dancers in her new piece “Bach + 8.” As part of the cast, Wiles has worked closely with the dancers, creating a sense of intimacy in the performance. Wiles and her cast will be joined on stage by pianist, Dr. Vedrana Subotic, an Associate Professor-Lecturer of Music at the University of Utah.

“’Bach + 8’ is a flirtatious and charming piece with a surprise ending. The work places eight female dancers in a playful comedy suggestive of a modernized version of Edgar Degas’ masterpieces depicting ballerinas.” says Wiles. “My hope is that each student will be able to express and experiment with their artistic voice in the solos, duos and trios that show both individuality and the ability to come together as a group.” 

  Wiles is the founder of New York City based BalletNext a company which pairs classically trained dancers with performing artists from diverse backgrounds and interpretations. Wiles was a Princess Grace Foundation, U.S.A. Dance Fellowship recipient for 1999–2000 and won the Erik Bruhn Prize in 2002. She joined American Ballet Theatre's Studio Company in 1997 and later joined American Ballet Theatre in 1998. Wiles was promoted to soloist in 2000 and to principal in 2005. In 2011, she founded BalletNext and has been choreographing on BalletNext dancers since 2011, to critical acclaim.

 The Gala program also includes work from world renowned choreographer, Matthew Neenan, whose new work “in the cold light of day” includes a cast of 18 dancers from both the modern dance and ballet programs. He pairs beautiful, flowing choreography with jolts of interruption that bring to mind the idiosyncratic moments that disrupt the fluidity of our daily lives and beg for closure and resolve. 

 “I have forgotten who in my cast is a ballet major and who’s a modern dance major. They have really come together and formed a comradery, which has been such a blessing for the piece. I can see the variety in their training from the U, and I really wanted to exploit that variety in the work. These students are exceptional talents. Their futures are very bright, these are dancers you will be able to follow for the rest of their careers.”

Celebrated artist and BalletX co-founder, Matthew Neenan is currently the Choreographer in Residence at Pennsylvania Ballet and his work has been featured and performed by BalletX, The Washington Ballet, Colorado Ballet, Ballet West, Ballet Memphis, Milwaukee Ballet, Oregon Ballet Theatre, Tulsa Ballet, Ballet Met, Oklahoma City Ballet, Juilliard Dance, New York City Ballet’s Choreographic Institute, Sacramento Ballet, Nevada Ballet Theatre, Indiana University, Opera Philadelphia, and LaGuardia High School of Performing Arts (NYC), among others. He has received numerous awards and grants for his choreography from the National Endowment of the Arts, Dance Advance funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Choo San Goh Foundation, and the Independence Foundation. 

Molly Heller, assistant professor in the modern program, will premiere “The Middle,” a new dance for five.

“The middle way/path in Buddhism is a term for a place with no reference point. It's not going left or right, a place with no real solidity. It is also a place where openness exists - an opportunity for becoming unstuck. "The Middle” incorporates textural projections, tennis shoe couture costuming, and an athletic vocabulary that challenges the performers' endurance while creating opportunities for "becoming unstuck." says Heller.

 Heller’s choreographic work is an extension of her interest in health and wellbeing, as well as an interweaving of theater practices and dance. Her work has been presented in venues such as: Eccles Regent Street Blackbox Theater, Kingsbury Hall for TEDx SaltLakeCity, Gowanus Art + Production, Danspace Project at St. Mark’s Church, Movement Research at the Judson Church, Green Space, DUMBO Dance Festival, The Mahaney Center for the Arts, Balance Dance Company, Boise State University, Westminster College, Sugar Space Studio for the Arts, and the Ladies’ Literary Club.

Eric Handman will present new work entitled “Galatea Prime” for the Gala audience. The piece will include five dancers and one flying drone, and will draw connections between Freud’s essay on “The Uncanny”, E.T.A Hoffman’s short story “The Sandman” and the Ballet classic “Coppelia.” Handman is also interested in using “Galatea Prime” to highlight and complicate the presentation of gender in modern fictional artificial intelligence narratives in films such as “Ex Machina,” “Solaris,” “Blade Runner” and “Westworld.”

Handman is an associate professor at the modern program of the School of Dance. He has taught, performed and shown his choreography throughout the United States as well as Costa Rica, England, Finland, France, Germany, Japan, Switzerland and Hungary. His work has been shown at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. He has served on the board of directors of the Congress on Research in Dance and is presently on the board of the American College Dance Association. Handman is a Fulbright Specialist and a member of the Entrepreneurial Faculty Scholars at the University of Utah for his work on mobile technology and choreographic thinking. 

The Gala program adds a classic touch with Act II of the love story, “Swan Lake,” reimagined by Jan Clark Fugit, adjunct professor in the School of Dance. Act II features the iconic flight of swans, their enchanting queen, a handsome prince and the evil sorcerer. Composed in 1875, “Swan Lake” remains a timeless favorite among ballet audiences across the world. Act II will be accompanied by a live orchestra performance by the University of Utah Philharmonia, led by conductor Dr. Robert Baldwin.

On the evening of 3/16, there will be a special pre-performance talk by Kate Mattingly, assistant professor in the School of Dance, dance writer, researcher and historian, at 7PM in the Legacy Gallery.

Don’t miss this vibrant evening of music and dance on the Kingsbury Hall stage!Purchase your tickets in advance at online