Italian Success: dancers experience a unique opportunity to perform in Italy

A member of the Wichita Contemporary Dance Theater poses while on the group’s nine-day trip to Italy in May.

A member of the Wichita Contemporary Dance Theater poses while on the group’s nine-day trip to Italy in May.

Staff Reporter

Despite unanticipated events, the Wichita Contemporary Dance Theater’s nine-day trip to Italy was a success.

On May 13, the company departed on its flights to Italy where the theater performed four times. The first performance was in Polcenigo, the next two were on the Aviano Air Base, and the final performance was in Casarsa.

The first three performances were met with eager praise.

“The one in Polcenigo was on a really small stage so just the duets and solos performed,” a Wichita State junior, Jannelle Huber, said. “We got an encore that night. I wasn’t in the performance, but I believe the piece was called ‘Hot Honey Rag.’ It was originally supposed to be two of the teachers, but that same day one of them hurt her foot so a student stepped in, and they got an encore in that tiny theater.

“The second and third performances went really well. We had problems with the teching of it because there was no actual crew to work the stage, but we had a lot of people there, and they loved the show.”

Only the final performance was disappointing for the company. It was intended to be part of a festival that was cancelled. The theater still performed, but few people attended.

“We didn’t really know what was going on,” Huber said. “Apparently there was a bomb in a school that went off. It killed one girl and put ten in the hospital, so the whole country was in mourning.”

The dancers went sightseeing when they weren’t performing, but the faculty who went didn’t sightsee as much as the students. 

“On days that we were performing and days we weren’t performing, the teachers who went along were giving master classes in hip-hop, jazz, mime, ballet, and modern dance. The classes were for the kids on base and the kids in the bordering towns,” she said.

The trip was also an organizational success. Renea Goforth, the senior administrative specialist for the School of Performing Arts, was a leading organizer.

“There’s a lot of work to it. Funding, transportation, hotels, and the places we were going to perform all had to be organized,” Goforth said. “It actually ran really smoothly because we had it well planned out.”

Financing the trip was a significant aspect of the planning, but even that wasn’t difficult, Goforth said.

“It was funded by different sources. A big chunk of it was through SGA; that went really smoothly. Then the students had to put some money in, and there was some money given by some other areas on campus and donations from various patrons,” she said.

The trip’s organizational success could be attributed to the combined effort of everyone involved.

“It was a combination of Renea, Kelsey [Hobbs], and Nick [Johnson] to organize it,” said Huber. 

The work didn’t only come from WSU faculty and students. Mostly people in Italy did the publicity for the performances. One Italian resident, David Weaver, worked with the Theater, sponsoring and helping to organize the trip.

“I believe it was David Weaver who came up with the idea for the trip. He’s an alumnus from WSU. He lives in Italy and suggested that we come out and show them what WCDT is all about,” Huber said.

Some performances and instruction were held before the trip helped them prepare.

 “The dancers had classes and performances to prepare the dances for the trip. There was one fundraising performance that they did right before we left that was at the Orpheum,” Goforth said. 

A final surprise during the trip happened on the dancers’ flight home.

“When they got diverted on their flight home and got to spend a day in Spain, that was something unexpected that ended up working out fantastically. They got to do some extra stuff and have it all paid for by the airport. The unexpected things like that were what was really amazing about the trip,” Goforth said.

Despite the multiple hang-ups during the trip, Goforth said the success of the trip was worth the money and effort.

“What the dancers experienced and the outcome of that—dancing in another country and the experience and knowledge that they’ve gotten—is something that they can put on their resumes when they’re trying to get on with a dance company or some other job,” Goforth said.

Huber agreed and said, “We put in a lot of hard work, but it’s something that you really have to love—otherwise it wouldn’t be worth it. For us, it’s you love what you do and you do what you love.”