UNCSA's Fall Dance highlights the Pluck Project

The School of Dance at UNCSA kicks off another season with a performance by senior contemporary dancers who are known as the Pluck Project for their student-led initiative that launches the dancers into the professional world. The piece will be choreographed by guest artist Shannon Gillen.

Fall Dance will also showcase second- and third-year contemporary dancers in pieces choreographed by guest artist and alumnus Ashley Lindsey and UNCSA faculty members Dayna Fox, an alumna, and Ming-Lung Yang.

Performances will be held at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, Oct. 1-5, with a matinee performance at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 5, in Agnes de Mille Theatre on the UNCSA campus, 1522 South Main St. in Winston-Salem. Tickets are available online or by calling the box office at 336-721-1945.

The Pluck Project, as the initiative has been known since its inception 20 years ago, offers professional development opportunities to senior contemporary dancers, who are responsible for marketing, fundraising, community outreach, budgeting and, most importantly, collaborative producing, culminating in a showcase at the end of the year in New York City, where they also take workshops from renowned choreographers and build connections within the dance community.

The community is always impressed with the care and commitment of our students, and, of course, their talent. The students in return are reminded of the impact dance can have, both large and small, to young and old.

Kira Blazek Ziaii

The project allows students to immerse themselves in the community through teaching weekly dance classes to high school and middle school students in Forsyth and Mecklenburg counties in a grant-funded program that helps to finance their New York showcase. They also produce “Peter and the Wolf” with kindergartners at the Arts Based Elementary School each year.

“Getting our senior contemporary dancers out in the community not only helps them reach their Pluck Project goals, but it also exposes local children to dance and performance,” said UNCSA contemporary dance faculty member Kira Blazek-Ziaii. “The community is always impressed with the care and commitment of our students, and, of course, their talent. The students in return are reminded of the impact dance can have, both large and small, to young and old.”

Guest artist Shannon Gillen will be choreographing a piece for the Pluck Project dancers to perform at the Fall Dance concert. The piece will explore themes such as reflected light, fantasy, shadow and collective hive movement.

“I have been thinking a lot about reflection and light. About the movement of flickering light and the way our eyes are drawn to this phenomenon,” said Gillen. “It speaks to existence as well. To know someone is there because the light is bouncing off of them.  And with a large cast, a sense of community can be explored, as well as a sense of density and scarcity.”

Shannon Gillen choreographs a new work for UNCSA's Fall Dance

Guest artist Shannon Gillen / Photo: Arnaud Falchier

Gillen, named 1 of 20 artists to watch by Brooklyn Magazine, has been described by The New York Times as “fearsome” and an “electrifying theatrical presence.” Before founding New York’s visionary dance company VIM VIGOR, Gillen graduated from The Juilliard School with a B.F.A. (2003) and from the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University (2013) where she was awarded a full fellowship to obtain her M.F.A.  She holds faculty teaching positions at the State University of New York at Purchase and Princeton University and is a regular guest teaching artist at The Juilliard School, The Hartt School and Tisch.

Guest artist Lindsey has choreographed a piece titled “Portal” which will be performed by six men and 14 women from the second- and third-year contemporary classes. The piece explores the relationship between two characters and their journey through life, both together and separately.

“The inspiration for ‘Portal’ is drawn from personal experience as well as the experiences of the dancers,” said Lindsey. “We spent our first week generating movement based on a list of questions. Then I combined these movements to create a series of duets, trios and small group phrases.”

The piece will be performed to a combination of atmospheric sounds by Michael Wakk, a percussive track by Daniel Avery as well as an electronic track by Senking.

School of Dance faculty member Danya Fox’s piece, titled “Magnificat in D,” is an abstract contemporary ballet for 10 women, set to seven excerpts from Bach’s “Magnificat.” The dance composition “Magnificat in D” has no story, but the music drives and influences the mood of each section: joyful, reflective, playful, solemn and spiritual.

“There is a certain strength and power that you feel when you see 10 women dancing together as one,” said Fox. “I purposely chose the seven excerpts from the larger work that featured female soloist voices to reflect the community and solidarity of women in general, which is also an underlying theme throughout the work.”

Faculty member Ming-Lung Yang’s piece, titled “It Would,” explores the physical qualities of environmental conditions, including flood, fire and drought. Danced by 16 dancers, four men and 12 women, the piece will be performed to “Pondok” by Evan Ziporyn, “Lemayuz” by the Taiwanese indigent children's choir, Partita No. 2 for solo cello: Movement II by Philip Glass, “Schubert-Quintet (Unfinished): Movement I”  by Kronos Quartet and “Flying and Flocking” by Zoe Keating.

“I was inspired to create ‘It Would’ from the devastation we have witnessed in result of climate change,” said Yang. “Though this piece makes no attempt to depict or comment on the crisis we now face.”

About the choreographers

Dayna Fox set her "Magnificat in D" for Fall Dane

Dayna Fox

A native of Columbus, Ohio, Dayna Fox received her early dance training at Ballet Met. She also has studied in New York and at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts under such illustrious teachers as Melissa Hayden, Duncan Noble, Mimi Paul, and David Howard. In 1977, Fox joined the North Carolina Dance Theater (NCDT), where she was a featured dancer through 1985. Under the direction of Robert Lindgren and Salvatore Aiello, NCDT performed extensively throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe including appearances at The Kennedy Center; Brooklyn Academy of Music; the American Dance Festival; the Spoleto Festival in Charleston, S.C.; and the Festival of Two Worlds in Spoleto, Italy. During her tenure, Fox performed soloist and principal roles in an eclectic repertoire including such works as Salvatore Aiello’s “Clowns and Others,” George Balanchine’s “Allegro Brilliante,” “Pas de Dix” and “Scotch Symphony,” August Bournonville’s “Napoli,” Senta Driver’s “Resettings,” and Vicente Nebrada’s “Pentimento.” 

In 1989, Fox was appointed director of the UNCSA Preparatory Dance Program, an afterschool, preprofessional training program for third- through eighth-graders. During her 25 years as director, Fox trained hundreds of students for the UNCSA School of Dance high school program. Many of them have transitioned to careers in professional companies across the United States and abroad. Fox holds a B.F.A. from the UNCSA School of Dance.

Shannon Gillen is the founder and artistic director of New York’s visionary new dance company VIM VIGOR. Gillen is one of New York City’s most sought after choreographers with an established and passionate audience following and commissions at prestigious national and international venues. She was recently championed by Deborah Jowitt as “vastly gifted,” and Vogue magazine called her work “mesmerizing.” Recent creations and educational commissions for Gillen include the B12 Workshops in Berlin, the Ruvuelo International Festival in Chile, with New Dialect in Nashville, the Lines Training Program in San Francisco, the University of Michigan, New York University Tisch School of the Arts, Springboard Danse Montreal, Manhattanville College and VIM VIGOR's summer program in August. This past year she created a new work for Benjamin Millepied's L.A. Dance Project and at the B12 Festival in Berlin. She is currently a choreographer in residence at Princeton University. 

Gillen danced with the Johannes Wieland Company at the Staatstheater Kassel, Germany, as a full-time company member. She danced in 56 international performances and was singled out in the press for being “in top form, a feat of strength” (Hessische/Niedersächsische Allgemeine, German News). While dancing in Germany, Gillen burst into the choreographic scene receiving third prize at the International Solo-Tanz Competition in Stuttgart and commissions at the Mainfranken Theater Würzburg and the TIF Theater in Kassel. She was also selected as a Think Big choreographer in residence with the Staatsoper in Hannover, creating a piece that premiered at the TANZ Theater International Festival. In Fall 2014 she returned to the United States to found VIM VIGOR and has since toured the world with the company.

Ashley Lindsey has choreographed "Portal" for Fall Dance

Ashley Lindsey

Ashley Lindsey is a New York City-based choreographer, dancer, teacher and creative director. He is a graduate of UNCSA under the direction of Susan McCullough. Lindsey has been a member of the Limón Dance Company, Lar Lubovitch Dance Company, Helen Simoneau Danse and Jessica Gaynor Dance Company.

Lindsey has performed throughout the United States, Japan, Italy, Switzerland, Hungary, China and Mexico. Other professional achievements include performing in the film “Bolden” as well as commercials for Target, ESPN, Skype and Dental Works. He has also appeared in music videos for Scott Matthews' “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” and Asgier’s “King and Cross.” He recently worked as assistant choreographer to three-time Tony Award-winner Hinton Battle on his show “Danzze Dreams.” Lindsey’s own choreography can be seen in the short film “Drilling Holes Into the Sun.” He has also worked as a movement coach to supermodel Miranda Kerr for a series of Proctor & Gamble commercials.

Lindsey has created works for UNCSA, UNC-Greensboro and numerous dance companies throughout the United States and Bermuda. In 2012 he founded Ashley Lindsey Dance, a contemporary dance company. The company has since performed in various festivals through New York City, including the Capezio Ace Awards, Reverb International Dance Festival, Pushing Progress and White Wave. His teaching credits include guest faculty member at UNCSA, Jose Limon Dance Foundation, NYCDA summer intensive, and Joffrey Ballet summer intensive as well as master classes at Duke University, American Dance Festival (Samuel H. Scripps Studio), Steps on Broadway, and Elon University. He is head of UNCSA Summer Dance.

Ming-Lung Yang choreographed "It Would" for Fall Dance

Ming-Lung Yang

Ming-Lung Yang earned his B.A. in dance from Chinese Culture University and his M.F.A. in dance from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Yang has danced professionally with Henry Yu and Dancers, Ku and Dancers, Dance Forum Taipei, Hilary Easton and Wally Cardona, and was a member of the Trisha Brown Dance Company from 1994-1999. Yang was the artistic director of Dance Forum Taipei Dance Company from 2002-2005 and choreographs other independent projects. His choreography has been presented by numerous venues across Asia, Australia, Europe and the United States.

Yang served as assistant professor of Taipei National University of the Arts from 1999-2004 and 2010-2012, guest professor at the Choreography Department of Korean National University of Arts from 2005-2006, and visiting associate professor in the Dance Department at The Ohio State University from 2006-2010. He taught at the American Dance Festival summer school from 2000-2013.

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September 18, 2019