Dancing with the stars

Miller Hall will be on fire Friday and Saturday night. But don’t worry — it’s all part of the program. A highlight of the Wichita Contemporary Dance Theatre’s spring concert will be “FIRE,” a piece by guest choreographer Charlotte Boye-Christensen.

“We are the fire, and our bodies our constantly interacting with each other,” said senior dance major Casey Bagnall. “It’s a lot of great interweaving, a lot of stillness too. It’s that flame that burns in all of us that keeps us going through the piece.”

The Fulbright scholar has created works for companies such as the Singapore Dance Theatre and New Danish Dance Theatre.

“She’s just on the edge of what’s happening today,” said Nick Johnson, director of dance. “She’s riding that front wave.”

Boye-Christensen came to WSU in February to work one-on-one with the dancers, which kept them on their toes.

“Knowing that you have so much more to give, so much more to learn, so much more to absorb is wonderful as a dancer,” Bagnall said. “I t’s all fluid movement that just gets into your body. Everything seems so kinetic with her.”

Boye-Christensen said she tries to put students at ease in rehearsals. She doesn’t want students to feel intimidated, but tries to create an environment where students can “go to the extreme.”

“It’s kind of a dialogue between myself and them, and seeing where they’re at and connecting with them on that level,” she said. “I love this whole idea of helping to shape the physicality and also kind of the creative mind of students.”

The dance concert comes a week after the American College Dance Festival Association. Two WSU students, Aaron Craven and Heather Eilerts, will advance to the national conference. In June, they’ll perform their duet at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

Bagnall’s self-choreographed solo made it to the regional round. Two minutes of silence got it noticed.

Based on Anne Sexton’s poem “For My Lover Returning To His Wife,” the piece centers on the emotion of unrequited love. For the first two minutes, Bagnall danced in silence. Then, Doris Day kicks in with “Dream a Little Dream of Me” by Doris Day.

The dance is also a sendoff to the group’s upcoming trip to Mexico. Two years ago, they toured Italy. In a little over two weeks, the group will arrive in Colima, Mexico to perform and work with local professionals.

“You keep them on the edge of their comfort zone by constantly providing them with newness, so that when they walk into (professional) situations, they can enter a comfort zone,” Johnson said.

The exposure seems to be paying off. Dancers get more variety in instruction, and Johnson said each instructor brings their own “vocabulary.” WSU dance majors should be fairly eloquent by now.

As for this weekend’s shows, Johnson said audiences will be impressed by the “eclectic” program. The evening also includes a dance choreographed by WSU dance alumnus Christopher Montiel. Although the program is contemporary dance that audiences sometimes find difficult to understand, Johnson said each audience member should find something to enjoy.

“It’s not a story dance… it’s a moment,” he said. “And you watch it, but with your eyes and your stomach and your heart.”

The concert is at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday in Miller Concert Hall. Tickets are $10 with discounts available.

Correction: A previous version of this article stated that Haleigh Kierl would be performing at the Kennedy Center in a national competition. The event is a conference, and Heather Eilerts will be performing.