They've got the 'Beat'

University Dance Company spring concerts feature work inspired by the Beat Generation

A whimsical dance choreographed by William Whitener, artistic director of the Kansas City Ballet, during a February residency at Kansas University will be the featured work at the University Dance Company's upcoming spring concerts.

The piece, called "Beat," ponders attitudes, trends and social dances of the Beat Generation.

"When I was a teenager in Seattle," Whitener says in the company's concert preview, "I began to notice the rise of a fringe group, which became known as the Beat Generation. They were a mix of artists, intellectuals, free thinkers and misfits. This was quite appealing to my restless nature, and I developed a lifelong interest in the Beat lifestyle."

The company will perform the dance, and several others choreographed by KU dance faculty members, during concerts at 7:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday.

Willie Lenoir's dance, "Happenstance," was created for the English Alternative Theatre production of August Strindberg's "Miss Julie." Inspired by the frolicking of the play's peasants on Midsummer's Eve, the dance depicts changing relationships between men and women during a revealing evening.

The other three faculty works feature vocal music.

Muriel Cohan and Patrick Suzeau have choreographed "Hombre Errante" ("Wandering Man"), a piece for unaccompanied choir composed by Gabriela Lena Frank. The KU Chamber Choir first performed the song last year. It's based on Quechua Indian poetry. The five movements create an Andean journey, performed by 14 dancers, including Suzeau as the wandering man.

"My Aine Countrie" by Jerel Hilding, takes its name from the text of a Scottish folk song, "Alistair McAlpine's Lament," set by Ralph Vaughn-Williams in 1912. It is one of four folk songs or part songs dealing with the essence of human life. "Alistair McAlpine's Lament" -- along with "Down Among the Dead Men," "Come Away Death" and "Wassail Song" -- provide the background for dances about love, death, conviviality and celebration.

Joan Stone's dance, "Solidarity," begins and ends with songs written and sung by coal miners. The impetus for the piece came from a painting by Wayne Wildcat, which commemorates the 1921 march of about 3,000 women to protest the unfair treatment of Kansas coal miners. In addition to the miners' songs, marching music of different kinds accompanies the work gestures, marching steps and folk dance movements of the dancers.


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