USC Dance Company Presents Concert of Dance Innovation Feb. 12 – 15 at Drayton Hall Theatre

USC dance mass-hysteria The USC Dance Company will present Breaking the Barrier, a program of contemporary dance works, February 12-15, 2014 at Drayton Hall Theatre.

Directed by Assistant Professor Thaddeus Davis, the concert will feature an all female cast, performing modern and contemporary dance works by the influential African-American choreographer Pearl Primus and the internationally-awarded choreographer Helen Simoneau, as well as brand new works by dance faculty Tanya Wideman-Davis, Stephanie Wilkins and Thaddeus Davis.


About the Featured Works

Bushache Étude,  by pioneering African-American choreographer Pearl Primus, recreates a ritual dance of the Bushongo people of the former Belgian Congo, which was used to purge their communities of evil spirits.  Speaking to NPR in 1994, Primus stated that she intended for the dance to “show the dignity, beauty and strength in the cultural heritage of the peoples of African ancestry” living in the US.

“It's a dance of transforming oneself for the benefit of the community,” says dance instructor Diane McGhee Valle, “where one tries to overcome personal fears and purge the community of evil.”

Valle, the head of USC’s Dance Education track, was instrumental in making Bushache Étude available across the nation through her work with the American Dance Legacy Institute in the late 1990s.  The ALDI worked with Primus before her death in 2010 to include Bushache in their Repertory Études™ initiative, which strives to pass on the legacy of influential American choreographers to contemporary dance artists, teachers and students.

“The basic idea of the dance is tackling fear, and everyone faces fear, whether psychological, physical or cultural,” Valle says.  “We are taking this idea and embodying it as contemporary women.”

Paper Wings by Helen Simoneau Contemporary choreographer Helen Simoneau has been described as having “a gift for creating shapes with dancers’ bodies” (Winston-Salem Journal), with an “ability to…create pieces that float beautifully between imagery and purpose” (  The award-winning artist has seen both her solo and company works performed throughout North America, Europe and Asia.  She comes to the University through a connection to assistant professors of dance Thaddeus Davis and Tanya Wideman-Davis – all three are recent graduates of the Hollins University/American Dance Festival MFA program.

The USC dancers will perform Simoneau’s Paper Wings, which made its debut at the American Dance Festival in 2012.  Set to a minimalistic score of electronics and percussion, the piece explores movement possibilities by assigning dancers with physical tasks and giving them the opportunity to discover their own unique physical approaches to accomplishing those goals.

“When coaching the dancers, something I talk about a lot is having a real-time experience,” Simoneau explains.  “If the dancers are able to have a really sensorial experience of the movement in real time, then the audience will take in what is actually happening rather than what is being performed.  They will notice that difference.”

Untitled by Tanya Wideman-Davis Assistant Professor Tanya Wideman-Davis’ still untitled work explores how the configuration of the performance space itself can affect the movement around it.  The piece features a prominent architectural element with a built-in light source, which reflects down and away from the structure.

“The audience will be witnessing how the dancers move around this particular structure and navigate the architecture in space,” she says.  “We’re investigating how space and movement can be shaped so that they are both causing a similar experience.”

Reframing by Stephanie Wilkins USC Dance instructor Stephanie Wilkins describes her work as a dance about freeing oneself from emotional pain.  For her, a quote from the writer Alexander Dumas sums it up best: “Moral wounds… may be hidden, but they never close; always painful, always ready to bleed when touched, they remain fresh and open in the heart.”

“Basically the first section, which has 4 big frames which will hang from the ceiling, one dancer behind each one, is about hiding behind your pain and not dealing with it, but wanting to break free of it and learn to love again,” she explains.   “And the second section will be about this process of breaking free and feeling everything again.”

Mass Hysteria by Thaddeus Davis Assistant Professor Davis describes Mass Hysteria as a “pure dance work.”  The acclaimed choreographer, recipient of the prestigious Choo San Goh award, says it is “an educational tool for our students to explore contemporary dance and the process of making new work.”



Putting It All Together

When asked about all the selections being presented for the concert, Wideman-Davis thinks back to how artists like Primus paved the way for contemporary female dance creators.

“Pearl was provocative, a female choreographer at a time when were there not a lot of opportunities for African-American women to create work.  This program, with four original works by female choreographers, is like a platform for women to be able to present creative, in-the-now work with young artists who are themselves in the process of figuring out how they’re going fit in the artistic world.”

Breaking the Barrier will be performed at 7:30pm February 12-15 at Drayton Hall Theatre.  Tickets for the concert are $12 for students, $16 for USC faculty/staff, military and seniors (60+) and $18 for the general public. Tickets can be purchased in advance by calling (803) 777-5112, or can be charged by phone at (803) 251-2222.  Drayton Hall Theatre is located at 1214 College St.

For more information on Breaking the Barrier or the dance program at the University of South Carolina, contact Kevin Bush by phone at 803-777-9353 or via email at


A message from Cindi about Kendal Turner, Pink Power, Virginia Scotchie & Gallery V, Al Black, USC Dance & Stacey Calvert, Corey Hutchins,Wade Sellers, Passing Strange & it's Art

Dear Friends, A few things are coming up this week that might fall under your radar but you probably don't want to miss. Let's take a look.

On Tuesday night at the Art Bar, spoken word poet Kendal Turner -- yes, the same amazing lady who put together the All Woman Entourage for the release of Jasper #4 the Pink Power Issue last week -- will be presenting Poetic Awakenings. Here's what Ms. Turner posts about the event on Facebook:

"This is a place for everyone. To share, to listen, to write their next big masterpiece. This is where to go when you're not sure where to turn. A peaceful refuge in the back room of a bar that's been the safe haven for many weary wanderers. Join me for VerseWorks at the Art Bar for an open mic like no other. I invite you to share what's in your heart and open to the highest form of grace. Art is the backbone of the universe and we, we are the architects." -- K. Turner

To RSVP for this event and for more information click the magic button. And to read more of Ms. Turner's impetus for creating this event, look for a blog post in the next day or so.


On Thursday night, a new gallery space is opening in 5 Points and, as you know, Jasper is all about finding more and more walls for all the art being generated in our town. This is Virginia Scotchie's gallery and she's calling it Gallery V - Contemporary Art and Fine Craft. Her first show is called "10 Women in Clay" and it features work by Isabelle Caskey, Heyley Douglas, Laura VanCamp, Virginia Scotchie, Allison Brown, Frieda Dean, Katherine Radomsky, Emily Russell, Brittany Jeffcoat, and Kristina Stafford.

Gallery V (as in 5) is located just above Good for the Sole shoes at 631-D Harden Street in Columbia. Opening reception hours are from 5 until 8. For more info or to RSVP, your magic button is here.

We'd also like to plug the newest issue of the magazine, Jasper #4, in which Ms. Scotchie wrote the guest editorial. Turn to the back of the mag and give it a read, please.


Two fine arts events will be happening at the same time on Friday night -- a problem Columbia rarely used to have, but which we seem to be plagued with now. I complain about this a lot myself, but it's a purely selfish complaint. If we lived in NYC or Seattle or Boston, we would  have long ago become accustomed to making choices of what arts events to attend on any given evening. This is something artists and arts lovers have to get used to if we're going to live in an arts hub like Columbia, SC. (For more on this, please refer to the recent Facebook exchange between myself and local poet Al Black that I have posted below.)*

At 7 pm on Friday, the USC Dance Company once again presents the Stars of the New York City Ballet at the Koger Center for the Arts.  I've written a piece on this for the Free Times, so I'll leave you to read that on Wednesday. (And, by the by, big props to Free Times for taking home a boatload of awards from the SC Press Association -- the SCPA paid for a portion of my undergrad tuition so I am still a fan -- and especially to Corey Hutchins of the Free Times for being named SC Journalist of the Year.)

But in the meantime, please know that to say that Stacey Calvert, former soloist with the NYC Ballet, has changed the face of ballet in Columbia, SC is no exaggeration whatsoever. I am overwhelmed by the misinformation being tossed around out there concerning who knows what about ballet in this city. If anyone really wanted to know what the bottom line on professional ballet is, rather than asking those who try to preserve their ephemeral positions of authority simply by clinging to the long gone skirt-tails of long dead people, they would ask Stacey Calvert. Read about her on page 42 of Jasper #4 and be aware that if we don't keep this woman in Columbia by giving her a position of real authority in which she can use her talent and her connections to put Columbia on the map for professional ballet, then this will be a shameful and disastrous loss -- as well as a likely remnant of the internecine conflicts mentioned in * below.


Also on Friday night, The rock musical Passing Strange opens at Trustus Theatre. I hope you've been reading and hearing about this performance and the collaboration between Jasper and Trustus as we brought 10 local artists together to create the set of the musical. We previewed the art last Friday and were treated to another magnificent example of what happens when artists from different disciplines come together to cooperate and inspire one another. (See photo below.) Now you have the opportunity to see the art on the stage. The show opens on Friday night and runs through April 14th. For ticket info punch here.


On Saturday, March 24th, local filmmaker Wade Sellers will be premiering his new film Lola's Prayer at the Expecting Goodness Short Film Festival in Spartanburg, SC. Mr. Sellers shared a guest blog with us previously. It's not that far to Spartanburg -- and if you're brave you can go early and eat at the Beacon. The festival starts at 7 and is only $5 -- but is expected to sell out, as well it should. I hope you'll join me in representing Columbia and supporting Mr. Sellers and his fine cast of Columbians who are in this film.


*Finally, here's a cut and pasted copy of the exchange between Mr. Black and myself from Facebook -- we'd love to know what you think, Columbia.

The first lines are from Al Black --

My thoughts on the 'Poetry Community' & the 'Arts Community' in general:We should stop looking at the 'Columbia Arts Community' as a pie and that the more artists and arts events the smaller our piece of pie.The 'Columbia Arts Community' is a fabulous psychedelic mushroom and when people bite off a piece spores are released into the atmosphere and mushrooms start popping up in more locations and more minds are fed.

The more we share the faster our crop grows & spreads - the potential is endless not finite.

With Warm Regards,

Albee In Wonderland Jefferson Starship once sang, "Feed your head!"

· · Thursday at 4:00pm

  • You and 3 others like this.
    • Jasper Magazine - The Word on Columbia Arts At Jasper, we couldn't agree more. And not to get all socio-political on a perfectly pleasant Sunday afternoon, but there is something to be said for the theory that internecine competition once held our fine burg back -- too much energy spent hating and not enough invested in supporting our sisters and brothers in the arts. As we grow in numbers, we grow in strength and power and visibility. We can become an arts destination by growing our arts community exponentially and via multi-disciplinary patronage.


Thanks for reading this far. Have a great week in the arts, my friends.





                         ~~ Cindi