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W&L Repertory Dance Company and Rockbridge Symphony Present Public Performance The groups will honor Black composers with a series of performances March 30-April 1.

dance-company-600x400 W&L Repertory Dance Company and Rockbridge Symphony Present Public Performance

The Department of Theatre, Dance, and Film Studies at Washington and Lee University presents the W&L Repertory Dance Company and the Rockbridge Symphony together in concert for the first time, with performances taking place in the Keller Theatre at the Lenfest Center for the Arts from March 30-April 1 at 7:30 p.m.

The performances are open to the public and tickets are required. W&L faculty, staff and students can order their tickets online. All other patrons must acquire tickets through the Lenfest Center box office, either in person during operating hours or by calling 540-458-8000 or emailing boxoffice@wlu.edu. Box office hours are Tuesday-Friday, 9 a.m.- 4 p.m. The event will also be streamed online at livestream.com/wlu.

This concert marks the first collaboration between the W&L Dance Company and the Rockbridge Symphony. Under the direction of Yi-Ping Chen, the orchestra will accompany the award-winning dance company on nine dances set to three pioneering works by Black composers.

Florence Price’s 1953 “Dances in the Canebrakes” is comprised of three movements. The first is a syncopated ragtime, the second movement is reflective of “slow drag,” and the final movement reflects the escapism of fancy-dress balls that likely originated on antebellum plantations as a Black satire of white society.

“Five Movements in Color, II Soul of Remembrance,” by contemporary composer and jazz pianist Mary Watkins, was created as a statement about the African American experience. Musicologist William Runyan described it as a eulogy to “lingering memories of the tragedy of the African Diaspora and its aftermath,” with its “lush string textures, funereal tempo, and expressive melodic lines.”

Duke Ellington’s “The River” rounds out the show. The legendary arranger and composer’s work is a ballet suite originally composed on commission in 1970 by the American Ballet Theater for choreographer Alvin Ailey. Ellington described it as “a metaphor in which the progress of a river parallels human life; from its source in a spring, growing from a rivulet to a mighty river flowing into the sea.” The movements of the piece illustrate this journey.

“Collaborating with the Rockbridge Symphony is a goal we’ve been working toward for many years,” said Jenefer Davies, artistic director of the W&L Repertory Dance Company. “Combining live music with dance produces powerful embodied pedagogical outcomes. Dancing to live music creates a special synergy between musician and dancer and is a rare treat at the collegiate level. We’re so pleased to share the bounty of this collaboration with local and student audiences.”

W&L’s Department of Theatre, Dance, and Film Studies is committed to including, supporting and uplifting the voices of students of color and other underrepresented minority groups on campus, and dedicates at least one performance each year that is written by a BIPOC playwright and one for which the primary artistic visionary is a BIPOC artist. The guest artistic visionary for the upcoming concert is Justice Miles, a choreographer, dancer and scholar who investigates the connections between contemporary dance, flamenco and Blackness.

Miles was integral in hosting three internationally acclaimed African American dance artists during the 2023 Winter Term at W&L. Students worked intensively with Lauren Putty White, a former dancer with The Philadelphia Dance Company; Rujeko Dumbutshena, who performed in the Bill T. Jones Broadway production of “FELA!”; and Edgar Page, who trained at the Ailey School and toured with the Cleo Parker Robinson Ensemble. During her time on campus, Miles exposed the student dancers to new movement forms, giving them the opportunity to expand their horizons experientially and participate in embodied learning.

As of March 1, the Lenfest Center’s ticketing system, AudienceView, is down for an indeterminate period of time. Upcoming performance reservations are being taken by the box office. Patrons can contact the box office in person during operating hours, or by calling 540-458-8000 or emailing boxoffice@wlu.edu. The box office will need a performance date and time to reserve, as well as the patron’s contact information and email address. The box office hours are Tuesday-Friday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.