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SPRING: Desert Dance Theatre in Concert features Kennedy Center-bound trio, original student works

April 13, 2016

Trinity Stafford (sh
Trinity Stafford (shown here) will perform an original dance work, 'Unheard,' with co-creator Brooke Whitby

ROCK SPRINGS — Western Wyoming Community College’s Performing Arts Department will premiere “SPRING: Desert Dance Theater in Concert” on Thursday, April 21, 2016 at 7:30 p.m. in the WWCC Theatre. Additional shows are scheduled for Friday, April 22, and Saturday, April 23, at 7:30 p.m., with a 2 p.m. Saturday matinee.

Tickets are $10 for adults and $6 for students and seniors. Admission is free for Western students with student ID. No children under 5 will be admitted to the evening performances; however, all ages are welcome to attend the 2 p.m. matinee on April 23. Tickets may be purchased online at

Dance Faculty Britta Joy Peterson and many of the upcoming concert’s professional Guest Artists will participate in a free behind-the-scenes program, “SEE-THRU – Movement Speaks: conversations about dance,” on Thursday, April 21, at 10 a.m. in the WWCC Theatre. The community is invited to attend this informative program on the practice and creation of dance as a collaborative art form. 

“SPRING” will feature original works by WWCC Dance Faculty and Artistic Director Britta Joy Peterson, along with an invigorating mix of student and guest choreography and contributions by guest lighting and sound artists. One of many original compositions featured in this year’s program is Visible Sketch v.4, a version of the work that will be performed by WWCC students Brook Whitby, Gabriela Cipili and Katherine Riedl at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington D.C. in June. The trio previously performed Visible Sketch v.3 in Laramie, where it received top honors at the American College Dance Association’s Northwest Conference Gala and was selected as the first of three dances to represent the Northwest Region at the ACDA National Conference.    

Visible Sketch v.4 is an upgraded version of that work, Peterson said, one that incorporates interactive technology that will digitally enhance and modify the accompanying music based on the dancers’ movements. Peterson said she began envisioning Visible Sketch last May and began collaborating with composer and friend Garrett Johnson on the work in November 2015.

“Garrett and I began the project, and then I added the dancers in December, when we premiered Visible Sketch v.1,” she said. “We developed the work and performed v.2 in February in Casper and v.3 at the American College Dance Association’s Northwest Conference in Laramie.”

In “SPRING,” Peterson is pleased to present v.4, which represents the fullest realization of the dance to date. Johnson will perform live with the dancers, using interactive technology to influence the music.

In addition to Visible Sketch v.4, Whitby and Cipili will perform their own original choreographed compositions. Whitby’s dance is a duet, Unheard, that she choreographed and will perform with fellow WWCC freshman Trinity Stafford.

“To be the choreographer feels like being a mother,” said Whitby, of Star Valley. “I have raised this living thing and nurtured it to what it has become.” She explained that the work is about “social minorities and how they often feel trapped in their own world.”

“It is an emotional roller coaster, but it is also very exciting to finally be making work that is so personal,” Stafford said, adding that she hopes the audience will “have an open mind about the piece and let it unfold.”

Cipili, a third-year performing arts student from Saratoga Springs, Utah, will perform her solo composition Tides. Cipili declined to assign a specific theme or subtext to her work, which Peterson said represents “a landmark” for the dancer in terms of “the type of dancer she is and the also the type of artist she has become.”

“Just enjoy the dance in the moment and let it resonate with you personally,” Cipili advised the audience. “Allow the dance to be whatever you perceive it as!”

Peterson, who joined the Performing Arts faculty in Fall 2014, said she is thrilled to direct her second concert for Western’s Desert Dance Theater. The title of last year’s concert, “r e f o r m,” was chosen as a reaction to the reformation of Dance at Western, she explained. 

“This year, because I had a foundation of understanding this community, I wanted to SPRING forward from our previous year’s work!” she added.

In addition to Visible Sketch v.4, Peterson has two other new works in the upcoming concert: Fête and Tired hearts kick darkness and bleed light. Fête is her second work created through the Propelling Professional Performance Project, or P^4. This year’s P^4 boasts a 19-member company of professionals, students, employees, and community members. 

“P^4 last year was such a huge success, I knew we had to do it again,” Peterson said. “Of course, I wanted to make the project even more impactful for our students, and so I brainstormed what professional skills are necessary for dancers that we hadn’t yet broached. That’s when it was clear—performing to live music! I invited longtime collaborator Robin Vining and good friend and amazing musician/composer Austen Mack to join the ranks of P^4.”

This year, the members of Desert Dance Theatre have enjoyed the opportunity to work with two guest choreographers, Cynthia Gutierrez-Garner and Mark Haim, each of whom conducted intensive, week-long residencies with the students. “SPRING” will feature Gutierrez-Garner’s work All Together Now and Haim’s composition Leisure Pond.   

“When building a concert, I’m always thinking about balance for the audience and balance for the dancers in terms of their education,” Peterson said. “Last year, I choreographed a jazz piece and invited Cynthia Gutierrez-Garner to do a modern work on the company. This year, we’ve changed spots! Performing Gutierrez-Garner’s jazz work, All Together Now, has shifted the students’ perspective of what jazz dance is and how it can be an agent to social change, and how they fit within the form themselves. Haim created this world and environment for the dancers to inhabit, all the while having the movement come from the dancers themselves. The process with Haim was eye-opening for many of these dancers when they began to realize that their own understanding of movement was valuable.”

Other artists’ work presented in “SPRING” includes that of lighting designer Evan Anderson, costume designer Gwendolyn Quitberg and Performing Arts Director Amy Critchfield.

“I am so lucky to collaborate with brilliant and willing creators,” Peterson said. “Critchfield has dreamt up and executed three different, distinct worlds that we will inhabit during the show. This is the second concert that I have had the pleasure of collaborating with Quitberg on; she so willingly followed me down the rabbit hole last year that I presented her with even greater design challenges this year. I am so appreciative of her keen artistic eye, her ingenuity with non-traditional materials, and her dedication to fulfilling these works.

“Anderson and I met in Seattle, where I was lucky to see his design work basically bi-weekly, because he designs so frequently throughout the city,” she continued. “Anderson lit Here, last year’s P^4 piece, and I am so excited that he is designing all of ‘SPRING’. Working with Anderson is like baking bread — you make the dough, then put it in the oven and let it work its magic. These dances are the dough, and Evan is the oven. I can trust him to bring these works to life and literally reveal them to the audience.”

Desert Dance Theatre’s “SPRING” offers the audience a dynamic multimedia experience featuring live music, highly physical and athletic dancing, and multiple genres. And, for a behind-the-scenes look at the making of dance, the free April 21 program “SEE-THRU – Movement Speaks: conversations about dance,” will explain the artistry and technical processes that go into the creation of a production like “SPRING.”

Participating guests artists in this 10 a.m. program include: professional dancers Léla Groom, of New York, Kim Lusk, of Washington, Kristopher K.Q. Pourzal, of New York, and Juan ‘Coel’ Rodriguez, of Arizona; professional musicians Austen Mack, Garrett Johnson, and Robin Vining, all of Arizona, and professional lighting designer Evan Anderson, of Washington. These artists will join Peterson and her students in providing a glimpse through the curtain at the processes that produce a concert like “SPRING.”

“SEE-THRU – Movement Speaks: conversations about dance” is sponsored by the WWCC Performing Arts Department, Sweetwater BOCES, WWCC Cultural Affairs, and the WWCC Office for Student Learning.

For more information, or to purchase tickets for “SPRING,” please contact the Performing Arts Office at (307) 382-1721 or visit


For more information, contact Audrey Harton at (307) 382-1661 or
(307) 382-1600 or toll free (800) 226-1181