Webster University

04/01/2024 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 04/01/2024 11:12

Webster University Dance Ensemble Presents Spring 2024 Concert

Webster University Dance Ensemble Presents Spring 2024 Concert

April 01, 2024

Webster University Dance Ensemble (WUDE), under the artistic direction of Xi Zhao, will present their Spring 2024 Concert May 3 - 5. The Dance Ensemble performs on the Browning Mainstage of the Loretto-Hilton Center, located at 130 Edgar Road. The concert takes place on Friday, May 3, and Saturday, May 4 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, May 5 at 2 p.m.

The concert features a variety of works performed by our students in a wide range of styles, from West African to contemporary to ballet and tap. For this year's concert, the Department of Dance is honored to partner with the Paul Taylor Dance Foundation to restage Taylor's landmark work "Aureole". Rain Stippec returns to Webster Dance as its alumni guest artist, joining faculty members Diadie Bathily, Maggi Dueker, Michael Uthoff, and Xi Zhao in choreographing original works for this year's performance.

Tickets for the concert can be purchased online in advance of the show. Tickets are $15 for adults, $7 for seniors, Webster alumni, and non-Webster students and $2 for children 12 and under. Webster students, faculty and staff are free with a valid Webster ID.

For more information about Webster Dance, the spring concert, or tickets, contact the Fine Arts Hotline at 314-968-7128 or [email protected].

About the Concert:

WUDE Guest Artist Jamie Rae Walker, the long-term former dancer with Paul Taylor Dance Company and the stager of Aureole, introduces this work: "Aureole was one of the first dances that launched the Golden Age of Modern Dance. Choreographed to the music of Handel, the piece was first performed in 1962 and began a signature series of Paul Taylor's works set to the driving rhythms of baroque music. The dance is exciting, light-hearted and romantic, containing a powerful solo which Taylor originally created himself. There is a deep complexity to Taylor's style, using the dancers' ability to make the movements appear effortless, while requiring the greatest amount of strength and technique. Aureole is a timeless, breathtaking masterpiece that is as fun and satisfying for the dancers as it is for the audience."

Lorraine "Rain" Stippec, WUDE alumni guest artist and the choreographer of [better] Together, comments on her work, "Instinctively, humans often seek connection. A person can spend a lifetime filtering through humanity to find someone who fits into their life and compliments their being - a light to their darkness, a fire to their ice, a yin to their yang. Alternatively, there are uncountable connections that cannot (or should not) be forged. The same could be said for rhythms. While each rhythm, and person, is fine on its own, the right counterpart can make it better. The connections made in life grow beyond one other person, and rather expand to many parts that make the whole. Rhythmic expression can develop a story, teach a lesson, and present a full spectrum of human emotions." Rhythm is sound in motion. It is related to the pulse, the heartbeat, the way we breathe. It rises and falls. It takes us into ourselves; it takes us out of ourselves. - Edward Hirsch

Diadié Bathily, the instructor for the International Dance course at Webster and the founder and director of Afriky Lolo, speaks of the concept of his work, "This piece is about how rhythm is part of daily life! Many people probably don't think about it much, but rhythm is extremely important in almost everything we do. 'Foli' is the word used for rhythm by the Malinke tribe in West Africa meaning 'I Spoke, or I Have Spoken.' In many traditional cultures, music and dance are as much a part of everyday life as eating and breathing. This is true in Africa, as with other parts of the world. It is not the rhythm that gives the movement, but the movement that gives the rhythm. Rhythms represent the very fabric of life and embody people's interdependence in human relationships. Rhythm is contingent on movement. Rhythm is born from a sequence of movements. As the Malinke man says, 'Tous les choses, c'est du rythme.' ("Everything is rhythm.") There is no movement without rhythm."

Maggi Dueker, chair of Webster Dance, explains, "I wanted to explore the possibilities for integrating AI into my creative practice. Together with the dancers, we've developed movement in response to various prompts generated by ChatGPT. The result is a highly collaborative process with a piece that examines the ways that impulses and information are received and shared both as seemingly random bits and through more interdependent human contact and connection."

Michael Uthoff, lecturer at Webster Dance and the artistic director of Dance St. Louis, speaks of his work JUVENTUD (Youth), "A romantic and youthful interpretation on Chopin's Concerto No. 1 (2nd Movement) that challenges the dancers to be aware of the lines and the spatial projection."

Xi Zhao, Webster faculty and artistic director of Webster University Dance Ensemble, explains her intention in making this work, "In our ever-evolving world, we navigate change as interconnected threads in a dynamic tapestry. Together, we confront the shifting tides, embracing the flux with resilience and unity. It was an enthralling experience collaborating with each dancer, delving into and exploring their unique connection with this piece. As we dance, we seek understanding, gracefully and intentionally exploring the boundless realms of the human."

A scene from the 2023 New Works Concert.

Artist Biographies:

Jamie Rae Walker began dancing soon after she could walk in her hometown of Levittown, Pennsylvania. As a young dancer she performed with American Repertory Ballet while extensively studying ballet and Graham techniques. She continued her training at the Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet and during that time was awarded a scholarship by Violette Verdy. Upon graduating high school, Walker was invited by Edward Villella to join the Miami City Ballet, where she performed corps, soloist and principal roles in Balanchine and Taylor repertoire for seven years. An intuitive pull to return north and explore the possibilities in New York immediately led her to becoming part of the original cast of Twyla Tharp's Broadway show Movin' Out, while simultaneously studying on full scholarship at the Taylor School. Walker joined the Paul Taylor Dance Company and after 16 years, took her final bow at Lincoln Center in November of 2019. In addition to traveling, performing and teaching around the world, she danced in the 2018 feature film The Chaperone, choreographed by John Carrafa. Walker continued her education with Penn Foster College, first for Interior Design, followed by a certificate in Fitness and Nutrition. Her passion continues in teaching ballet and modern dance while bringing the benefits of a holistic, beautifully designed life to her communities.

Lorraine "Rain" Stippec earned her BFA in Dance from Webster University - graduating Magna Cum Laude with Leigh Gerdine College of Fine Arts (LGCFA) department honors. After graduating, she toured China with a hip hop crew through Sterling Plus Entertainment and returned to her alma mater as Department of Dance associate. Rain has thrived in St. Louis performing professionally including credits at The Muny and with The Fabulous Fox Theatre Tellerettes. Choreographically, she has created full-length productions for community and professional theatres, fundraising events, company concerts, and so much more! In 2017, Stippec became a victim of a random act of gun violence and since surviving to tell the tale of her recovery has returned to the stage. Along with podcast, radio and local network appearances, she has been a keynote speaker for numerous events - appearing on Facebook Watch's Red Table Talk interviewed by Jada Pinkett-Smith and a national commercial for The CW Network. Stippec continues to pursue a motivational speaking career in conjunction with teaching and choreographing for dance students throughout Missouri and Illinois; while teaching at The Professional Dance Center and MAC Dance, choreographing for Weissman Dancewear Solutions, and adjudicating for Celebration Talent, Turn It Up Dance Challenge, and Impact Dance Adjudicators. She is grateful to be engaging with young tap dancers as the pre-professional student program director for STL Rhythm Collaborative and a performing company member with moSTLy TAP (recognized in 2023 by Dance Magazine's Top 25 to Watch and as St. Louis Magazine's Best Dance Company.)

Diadié Bathily (JAH-jay bah-chee-LEE), a master dancer, choreographer, and instructor from Côte d'Ivoire and Mali, has dedicated his life to preserving and promoting West African dance traditions while infusing them with contemporary flair. Beginning his performance career at the tender age of four, Bathily has since graced stages across Africa, Europe, and the United States with esteemed companies like Les Guirivoires and Adama Dramé's troupe. As a member of the faculty at the Center of Creative Arts (COCA) in St. Louis, Missouri, Bathily passionately shares his expertise, introducing students to the vibrant rhythms and movements of West Africa. In 2003, he founded Afriky Lolo and Yelé, his own dance companies, where he meticulously crafts performances that showcase the authenticity and richness of West African culture. Bathily's choreographic prowess shines in works like "The Mask," where traditional dances intertwine with captivating storytelling. His dedication has garnered numerous awards, including the prestigious N'gowa Prize for "Best Dancer and Dance Teacher of the Year" in Côte d'Ivoire and recognition from esteemed choreographers like Marie-Rose Guiraud. Through his artistry and commitment, Bathily continues to bridge cultural divides, inspiring audiences and students alike with the beauty and spirit of West African dance.

Maggi Dueker is an assistant professor and the chair of the Department of Dance at Webster University. She founded and is the director of Webster's Summer Dance Intensives. Her choreography has been performed by the Webster University Dance Ensemble, Convergence, and at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, American College Dance Festival, Dancing in the Streets, and National Dance Day. Dueker has an MFA in Dance from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and received her BFA in Dance and BA in History from Webster (Summa cum laude). She performed professionally with Kaley Pruitt Dance, Giordano Dance Chicago II, Royal Caribbean International, the MUNY, and as a freelance performer with Melissa Thodos and Dancers and the Chicago Arts Project under the direction of Jay Franke. She has previously taught at Northwestern University, the Giordano Dance Center, and currently teaches for the Big Muddy Dance Company. For her work at Webster, Dueker has been nominated for the Excellence in Teaching and Advising Excellence awards.

Born in Chile to the founders of the Chilean National Ballet, Michael Uthoff journeyed to New York City to study dance at School of American Ballet, Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance, and Juilliard. He became a soloist with the José Limón Dance Company, an original member of the American Dance Company, a principal dancer with the Joffrey Ballet, and a member of the First Chamber Dance Company of NY. Michael founded the Hartford Ballet, taking it to national prominence. He then became Artistic Director of Ballet Arizona and the Ballet Estable del Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires, Argentina. In 2006, Uthoff returned to the USA to become the executive director of Dance St. Louis. He left in 2017 and has returned as the artistic director since 2020. Since 2013, he has been working as the artistic director of New Dance Partners at JCCC in Overland Park and commissioning over 33 new works by the young and established choreographers. Uthoff's choreography has been seen around the world garnering accolades and awards. He has received grants from the NEA, local and state agencies, and major foundations. Uthoff has been a faculty member at Webster University since 2010. He holds an honorary doctorate in Fine Arts from the University of Missouri-St. Louis. Michael is a citizen of the USA and Chile and a resident of Mexico.

Xi Zhao received her MFA in Performance and Choreography from the Tisch School of the Arts at NYU and her MA in Dance Choreography at the School of Dance, Minzu University of China. Renowned as a choreographer, producer, and educator, she has received numerous awards for her innovative works, blending traditional and contemporary elements. Zhao is the founder and artistic director of The NEW-Beijing New Dance Festival. The festival has successfully invited over 100 international artists from more than 25 countries to perform and teach in Beijing, introducing many contemporary dance artists and companies from Central and Eastern Europe to China for the first time. It has hosted over 10,000 participants and spectators from all over China. Zhao was a tenured lecturer at the School of Dance, Minzu University of China for 12 years. In 2019, she was a visiting guest artist in the Dance Department at Webster University in St. Louis, where she currently serves as a faculty member and the artistic director of the Webster University Dance Ensemble. Zhao has actively engaged with the Chinese community through her teaching and service and has worked as the artistic director for the annual Chinese Culture Days at Missouri Botanical Garden and the St. Louis Lunar New Year Galas. She is a member of the China Dancers Association, the leading association of dance professionals in China. In April 2019, Zhao was honored with the "Award MENADA for Extraordinary Achievement in the Field of Contemporary Dance" from the Dance Fest Skopje in North Macedonia.