Cirque De Soleil Choreographer Joins ‘Very Physical’ Mix For Brenau Faculty Dance Program

Aug 25, 2011
Rudi Kiefer

Jacques Heim, artistic director of a Los Angeles-based international-touring dance company and choreographer of the Cirque de Soleil show in Las Vegas, brings some of his work to the Brenau University stage March 31-April 2 during the wide-ranging and boundary-shattering faculty dance concert.

In the process, some Brenau dance majors get to show what they have learned by performing under direction of an internationally acclaimed choreographer. However, they may have gotten more than bargained for. Before rehearsals began, Brenau Dance Department Chair Vincas Greene said Heim and his rehearsal director warned the Brenau dancers to begin a regimen of weight training, sit-ups, pull-ups and pushups – not to mention laying in a stock of knee pads and athletic shoes – to get them prepared for learning and executing the new program.

“It is a modern dance, very athletic and very physical,” said Greene.

“There is a lot of running, jumping, sliding and rolling. We have not had something so contemporary and theatrical on our stage before. It is performance art – athletic, physical theater. We are doing so many new and exciting things under the dance umbrella that we have yet to invent the language with which we can talk about them.” 

The annual spring program, which showcases the talents of Brenau students and faculty, is open to the public with a $6 general admission charge, $4 for senior citizens and students. Performances each night begin at 7:30 p.m. at the John S. Burd Center for the Performing Arts, Hosch Theatre, at Brenau.

Greene says he is thrilled to be re-united for the performance with Paris-born Heim, a classmate at the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia. But he adds that he is equally excited by other aspects of the program, which also includes choreography by Emily Yewell-Volin of Atlanta and Christina Castro-Tauser of the Gainesville ballet junior company director. All segments of the concert, he said, break new ground for the annual faculty review because of their scope and content, including one piece that is a collaboration of the music, dance and theater departments at Brenau.

Heim founded his interdisciplinary Diavolo Dance Company in 1992 to “to create large-scale interdisciplinary performances which examine the funny and frightening ways individuals act with their environment,” particularly with architectural forms. Promoted as an “almost cinematic experience,” the performances attracted attention of Cirque du Soleil, which commissioned Heim to choreograph “Ka,” its permanent show in Las Vegas, which has been running since February 2005.

For the Brenau stage, Heim eschewed his usual giant architectural set pieces and adapted a portion of one of his works around a single work bench. But, Greene said, “there is very little sitting involved.”

The collaborative piece, featuring work by dance faculty Greene, Nikki Bybee and Jolie Long, musical work by faculty members Priscilla and Keith Jefcoat, and costume design by theater professor Fred Lloyd “is very interesting and abstract,” said Greene. “There is a lot of humor in it. There is not a story line, but you can see the central theme.”

Yewell Volin, who is a dance instructor at Agnes Scott College, teaching artist for young audiences at Woodruff Arts Center and a contributor to the internationally distributed Dance Informa publication, also developed a piece especially for the program called “Queued.” Greene explained that the jazz piece is “about how everybody is on his or her own path and so busy that they have trouble relating to others – a process that’s exhausting to us.”

Christina Castro-Tauser, junior company director of the Gainesville Ballet, brings to the stage a work called “No It.” The Afro-Brazilian dance, Greene said, is another “really physical dance with a lot of stage movement.” This reprises the Brenau group’s performance in early March at the American College Dance Festival at Florida State University in Tallahassee.

“This program will have lots of appeal for all dance enthusiasts in the Gainesville area and for people who may not be that familiar with the dance world,” said Greene. “It definitely will keep you awake.”

The program was funded through the annual “Dance with a Smile” contribution of Dr. Norman D. Peets III of Gainesville.


Originally published on 3/29/11