Arts & Culture

New work takes root at UK Dance annual concert

UK Department of Dance and Theatre's "Rooted Forces" will command the stage Jan. 27-29, in the Guignol Theatre.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Jan. 23, 2023) — The University of Kentucky Department of Theatre and Dance will present the annual dance concert, "Rooted Forces," Jan. 27-29, in the Guignol Theatre, in the UK Fine Arts Building. "Rooted Forces" features new dances by faculty, guest artists and student work. Aligned with UK as a leading research university, the choreography is rooted in inquiry, exploration, risk-taking and creativity. Through an extraordinary breadth of multifaceted perspectives and creative processes, the concert is an eclectic mix of modern and contemporary dance. 

"Blueprints," a new work by UK Dance faculty member Laura Neese, in collaboration with the dancers, explores how embodied awareness of the living architecture of the human body informs how we move in the world and engage in community. 

Neese explains, "The collaborators ask: 'Who are we? Of what are we made? What power exists for expression and connection within our very structures?'" The work will be set to the "Human Harmonic," a sound score by Josh Jevons and University of Colorado Hospital that translates data from the human body into sound.  

Kathy Luo, visiting lecturer of dance, who recently moved to Kentucky from Arizona where she earned her M.F.A. in dance and Teaching Pedagogy Certificate, has been working with the UK students on a new dance project, “Unspoken Dialogue,” which is situated in her immersive dance research to create emotional and physical proximity that challenges traditional theater settings by “breaking the fourth wall.” “Unspoken Dialogue” is inspired by chess pieces and their essences of risk-taking, ambition, confrontation and intrinsic strength between opponents. The dancers will be dancing around the audience seats in the house before transitioning to the stage to create an interactive and engaging theatrical atmosphere and grab spectators’ attention emotionally, kinesthetically and cognitively.    

“I am thrilled to bring my artistic endeavors to the UK students and further extend my passion toward immersive dance and site-specific productions,” Luo said. The project seeks to evoke a wide range of audience participation to honor our diverse social identities that provoke critical and thoughtful discourse and bring people together to initiate creative ownership.   

Student choreographer Anna Benton, of Louisville, Kentucky, is unsettled by the societal stigma surrounding anxiety, particularly regarding the assumption that victims of anxiety disorders can “just work through it.” As a young person learning to live with anxiety disorders, Benton seeks to debunk this assumption with her art.

"'My Head Lies' aims to illustrate the manifestation of anxiety’s debilitating nature in daily life, along with deconstructing the typically superficial, one dimensional depiction of mental health in concert dance culture," said Benton.

Through inventive movement and a busy stage accented with frantic moments of unity, Benton's work creates an authentic atmosphere of unrest and discomfort from a firsthand perspective. Prompted to generate their expressions within the live performance, the dancers embody spiraling thought patterns and excessive entropy. Instead of attempting to describe anxiety’s vast number of unique symptoms in words, “My Head Lies” channels anxious energies while exploring the diversity of anxiety — what it looks like, how it feels and how no two people with anxiety are the same. Benton’s choreography will represent UK's student choreography at the American College Dance Association.  

Theresa Bautista, an instructor with the UK Department of Theatre and Dance, reimagines her 2013 work “Layers…and what’s in between” for the "Rooted Forces" Dance Concert. This lighthearted piece for six dancers looks at what we layer, how we layer and what’s in between the layers. Utilizing clothing as a means to explore our patterns and habits, as well as our relationships with a partner, the movement vocabulary investigates ideas of over, under, around and through.  

Guest artists Russell Lepley and Fili Pellachi are queer dance artists who co-founded Flux + Flow Dance and Movement Center in Columbus, Ohio, to create an inclusive, joyful space for dance. This space — and the community that has grown around it — is an extension of their values which are grounded in the conviction that all dancing bodies are beautiful regardless of age, race, size, gender expression and dis/ability.  

“Lividly .2” originally premiered in 2022 as a collaboration between FluxFlow Dance Project and Counterfeit Madison and was recreated through the lens of 14 performers from the UK Dance Program for the "Rooted Forces" Dance Concert. The work explores the queer experience using dance, theater and the creative process. The performance will explore queer shame — its bruises, furies and blueness — but moves progressively, through connection, humor and resilience, toward a triumphant sense of self-love and belonging to a community of people with their own versions of the same experience. What shame do we share? What can we learn from shame we don’t share? Can performing shame work toward transforming and transcending it? 

"Rooted Forces" performances will take place in the Guignol Theatre located in the Fine Arts Building, 465 Rose St. Performances are 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Jan. 27 and 28, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 29. Seating is reserved. Tickets are available by visiting the Singletary Center for the Arts at or by calling the box office at 859-257-4929. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for students. 
Mask-wearing is optional for audience members at University of Kentucky events. If you or someone in your party are ill or displaying symptoms of COVID-19 we kindly ask that you refrain from attending in order to slow the spread of the disease. Thank you for attending responsibly. 

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.