Author: Helanius J. Wilkins

Demystifying “The Current”, CU Boulder Dance’s annual faculty and guest artist concert

Helanius J. Wilkins, Associate Chair of the CU Boulder Department of Theatre & Dance and Director of Dance shares thoughts about CU Dance’s annual event, “The Current.”

What is “The Current?”
“The Current” is the CU Boulder Dance Program’s annual showcase that features the creative work of faculty and guest artists. This year “The Current” includes new works from CU dance faculty including Erika Randall, Anya Cloud, Larry Southall and me. The performance will feature a variety of works that span contemporary dance to hip-hop to screen dance. Audiences will experience everything from solo pieces to large ensembles.

What are the guiding principles of the CU Boulder Dance Program?
I love this question. I feel that the CU Boulder Dance Program guiding principles are living and breathing. In this sense, they are continually evolving as we continue to learn more, grow and engage in the conversations happening within the greater field of dance. At the core of our evolving principles is a commitment to: 1) providing excellent education and training to students interested in careers in and/or related dance as well as students majoring in other fields; 2) offering performances that are aesthetically and intellectually stimulating to the campus community, the Boulder area, and the state; and 3) contributing, through research and productions, to the health and development of the arts – particularly dance – locally, regionally, and beyond.

How does “The Current” tie into that educational mission?
Great question! The Dance Program’s educational mission is rooted in theory and practice. The learning experience is manifested in part through transferring classroom experiences into productions that are shared with the greater public. One of the ways we achieve this is through “The Current,” a production that creates dynamic intersections for students and the community-at-large to engage in and experience the creative research and projects of our esteemed faculty members and guests. “The Current” provides multiple points of intersection for the CU Dance community:

  • Students see their instructors (along with their professional companies in some cases) in performance and learn how central themes in their research manifest through choreographic works for the stage.
  • Students participate in creative processes with faculty who are making new works specifically for this performance series.
  • Students participate in the work of professional guest artists who are commissioned to create original choreography. Their presence in the department creates unique  opportunities that otherwise might not be available to students.

We believe that access to creative expression can and should be a transformative experience for everyone. By engaging students and the greater community through artistic practice, we continually learn more about ourselves, the world around us and the power and change possible through the journey of creative process.

As an added note, I am thrilled to share that our educational mission will come full circle in a new way this year. There will be Post-Performance Talks following the opening night performance on April 20 and after the matinee performance on April 23. The panels will feature faculty choreographers and a student cast member from the various pieces. My vision for this was to create a portal for gaining insights and engaging in conversation with audience members about the making and performance processes.

What is the creation process of “The Current” like?
The creation process for “The Current” is exciting, vibrant, and diverse. Our faculty members have very different creative practices and approaches to artmaking. It is not unusual for faculty to engage in a combination of year-long processes and also shorter, more intensive-based processes that do not begin until winter break or the start of the spring semester. When faculty cast project members through an audition process, that process is always facilitated with an eye toward an equitable approach while also creating educational opportunities for students.

“The Current” features nationally renowned guest artists in most years. Can you tell us more about this year’s guest, Miguel Gutierrez, and his role in “The Current?”
Another way the CU Dance Program activates its educational mission is through engaging guest artists, thereby creating opportunities for students to learn from and work with artists they may not have access to otherwise. Chosen by a graduate student committee, Miguel Gutierrez, a critically acclaimed and internationally celebrated artist, is our Roser Visiting Artist for this academic year. Gutierrez self identifies as a choreographer, music artist, writer, visual artist, educator, podcaster, and Feldenkrais Method practitioner and he is based in Lenapehoking/Brooklyn, NY and Tovaangar/Los Angeles. As part of his two week residency in the dance program, he is creating a contemporary dance work for eight students. The work will premiere as part of “The Current.” Gutierrez works at the intersection of varied themes and practices and centers experimentation. He believes in an approach to art making that is fierce, fragile, empathetic, political and poetic. We are honored to have him as our Roser Visiting Artist and thrilled to have his work performed by a cast that includes undergraduate and graduate students.

“The Current” opens on Thursday, April 20 at 7:30 p.m. in the Charlotte York Irey Theatre.