We Shall Rise

UMKC Dance brings work and art to the community
UMKC Conservatory Dance students

Science is the focus of the Roy Blunt NextGen Precision Health building in Columbia. But thanks to UMKC, the arts will play a significant role in the Oct. 19 grand opening event.

Kim Kimminau, Ph.D., a program lead for NextGen Precision Health, asked DeeAnna Hiett, chair and associate professor of Dance at the UMKC Conservatory to choreograph an original dance for the opening celebration.

The NextGen Building will be an anchoring facility for the NextGen Precision Health initiative, which will harness the power of the four universities in the UM System, MU Health Care, MU Extension and external partners to bring together cutting-edge research, technologies, and treatments to transform health care and save lives.

Hiett’s inspiration for the NextGen dance came from her perspective on the resilience of the human body and spirit, “We shall rise from the ashes.” The video starts somber and gets more intense throughout. In the beginning, the audience will see the dancer come from a low place in her life, struggling as she thinks back in time. Scenes will show the dancer wistfully looking out a window and walking down a busy street, oblivious to her surroundings and those around her. As the video ends, the audience watches the dancer come back to herself with a sense of encouragement to survive, creating a triumphant feeling for the audience.

“I’m hoping to give the sense of hope,” Hiett said. Everyone, regardless of their profession or place in life, overcomes struggles. And without science and doctors, Hiett said dancers couldn’t do what they do. “They keep us in operation. We’re honored, humbled and flattered to share our art with science.”

The performance Hiett choreographed for the NextGen opening is short – under four minutes. It’s an original piece with one dancer at the center of the performance. It includes nine dancers; seven are UMKC students and two are from the Wylliams/Henry Contemporary Dance Company, where Hiett is artistic director. The dancers include Ashlan Zay, senior, lead dancer; Ivyana Robinson, senior; Ashleah England, senior; Lauren Jespersen, senior; Alexa Glomp, senior; Elizabeth Lollar, sophomore; and Lecia Sims, junior. Wylliams Henry Contemporary Dance Company dancers are John Swapshire, UMKC Conservatory alumnus; and Jeremy Hanson.

The project came together quickly after Hiett accepted the invitation. She put the call out for volunteers, which was before the fall semester started. She said the first week of school was challenging because they rehearsed for two hours a day in the week leading up to the recording on Sept. 4. Four hours later, the video was shot and ready for editing and final production. Videography was provided by Ryan Bruce and Jeremy Hanson. Video editing was provided by Caroline Dahm, UMKC Conservatory adjunct professor of dance and Wylliams/Henry Contemporary Dance Company executive assistant and company member.

This isn’t the first time Hiett has said yes to creating an original dance for another discipline or for a community project. The UMKC Dance Department also collaborates with the UMKC School of Computing and Engineering and UMKC Health Sciences District schools. UMKC Dance students and faculty even created a celebration video for the Kansas City Chiefs’ return to the Super Bowl in 2021. They do these projects because Hiett, faculty and students are passionate about their craft. It’s their work. It’s their art.

“We take art and dance to the community,” Hiett said. “We love to dance, and we love to share it. So, any opportunity we have to get out in the community, of course we want to.”

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Published: Oct 19, 2021

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