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OSU dance performance moves uptown, comes home to campus

Courtesy of Catherine Proctor

After 12 years of hosting their spring performance at the Capitol Theatre in downtown Columbus, the Ohio State Department of Dance has decided to come home.

Dance Uptown will feature more than 40 dancers from the Department of Dance who will be performing African or African-inspired pieces set to the music of artists such as B.B. King. The show will take place on tonight and tomorrow at 8 p.m. in Mershon Auditorium.

Department of Dance Chair Susan Van Pelt Petry cited cost, student accessibility and attracting the Columbus arts scene to campus as reasons for the move.

Four choreographers worked with the dancers including OSU faculty Susan Hadley and Michael Bruce Kelly. The Department of

Dance also brought in multidisciplinary artist Sabela Grimes from Los Angeles, Calif., to perfect the dancers’ hip-hop style, said Melissa Bontempo, digital media associate to the Department of Dance.

Grimes taught the dance students hip-hop lessons for Winter Quarter.

Grimes is not the only artist to contribute to the performance from outside of OSU. Flatié Dembélé, an internationally known West African artist, came to contribute to the piece L’Ombre du Silence (Shadow of Silence), Bontempo said.

Van Pelt Petry estimated that bringing in professors and contributors such as Grimes and Dembélé cost the department roughly between $15,000 and $20,000 each per quarter, not including the housing that is provided.

“The inspiration from the show came from my desire to explore the history of hip-hop dance,” Van Pelt Petry said. “It’s a cultural movement just as ballet is.”

In tossing around ideas with the faculty, the Department of Dance came up with an African-inspired show that was rooted in 60s culture.

“Most of the music from the 50s and 60s  we wanted to showcase was African-inspired or performed by African artists, so it all fit together,” Van Pelt Petry said.

Bontempo said that the costumes and sets are what really bring the show alive.

“There are several blonde beehive wigs that light up during the show,” Bontempo said. “They’re being used as stage props throughout: wedding cakes, candles and hair depending on the scene.”

Based on current ticket sales, the OSU Theater Box Office is expecting 468 patrons in two days.

Tickets for the show are $10 for general admission. Ticket sales help the dance department fund this and other performances, Bontempo said.

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