Students enrolled in the Stephens Summer Dance intensive are studying the art of Jump Rhythm and learning contemporary modern dance from two internationally respected guest artists.
Brandi Coleman is the associate artistic director of Jump Rhythm Jazz Project, a Chicago-based dance company that celebrates the communal core of jazz performance—
dancing, singing and story-telling in rhythmically syncopated conversations. At Stephens, she’s teaching the art form to students.
Hettie Barnhill is a Broadway entertainer who last performed in the production of Spider-Man. She’s teaching contemporary movements inspired by some of her Broadway performances.
Both artists are emphasizing high-energy movements that are relaxed and controlled. Movements are sharp with an emphasis on the transitions between poses.
“The styles work together,” Coleman said. “They’re different but complementary.” Dance students are being challenged, but Coleman and Barnhill agreed that once they get out of their comfort zones, they’re “willing to go for it.” That includes being willing to “scat," get into character and take other risks.
Barnhill and Coleman are choreographing dances that students will perform at the annual Summer Dance Concert. The concert, which is open to the public, will be held at 7:30 p.m. June 27-28 at Macklanburg Playhouse.
Coleman is also an adjunct lecturer at Northwestern University. In 2007, she won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Individual Performance On-Camera in the PBS documentary Jazz Rhythm Jazz Project: Getting There. She is currently pursuing her M.F.A. in Dance at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
Barnhill’s Broadway production ended in January. She’s using the break between shows to not only serve as a resident artist at Stephens but also work with A Long Walk Home, Inc., a non-profit organization that uses art therapy and performing arts to educate the public about healing from trauma. She’s been honored twice as a Rising Star by the Young & Powerful for Obama Group and in 2011 was named NAACP “Top 21 Leaders 40 and Under” in the fields of arts and culture.
Stephens Summer Dance is part of the College's B.F.A. in Dance program that allows students to earn their degree in three years and two summers. The program is split into two sessions, allowing high school students to participate, as well.
During the second session, guest artists include Francisco Graciano, a member of the Ben Munisteri Dance Company, Cortez & Co. Contemporary/Ballet and Pascal Rioult Dance Theatre and the Paul Taylor Dance Company in New York City; Russell Sultzbach, director of Ballet South; and Morgan Hulen, a member of the world-renowned MOMIX dance company.
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