‘We Dance/Our Dances’ pays tribute to legend Gregory Hines

    The UCSD Theatre and Dance Department’s annual spring dance festival hits Mandeville Auditorium this weekend. This year’s festival, “We Dance/Our Dances” will feature UCSD dance majors performing an array of dances, including a tribute to legendary tap dancer and actor Gregory Hines, who passed away in 2003 at the age of 57 from liver cancer.

    Choreographed by Kellee Thompson, this tribute includes her own choreography and will also recreate dances from a handful of Hines’ films. Thompson said that she has been a fan of Hines’ work for years.

    “I was able to take a class from [Hines] in 2001 in L.A., and I just remember being able to talk to him after class and ask him questions,” Thompson said. “He actually stayed after the class was over and talked to me personally for about half an hour answering my questions until his driver actually made him leave … I just wanted to show everyone what a great man he was and that he was a wonderful dancer as well.”

    In addition to this tap dance tribute, “We Dance/Our Dances” will highlight a combination of styles including modern, jazz, contemporary movement and hip-hop inspired dance. Other dance pieces within the concert will integrate live music, video and sign language into the context of the movements.

    This concert is choreographed by 11 UCSD dance majors that were selected from a group of 16 candidates by a panel of judges from the UCSD dance faculty.

    One of these faculty members, Jean Isaacs, is the director of this year’s concert. A distinguished educator in modern dance who specializes in teaching technique, choreography and improvisation, Isaacs is also well known around San Diego for her commissioned work in such prestigious venues as the Old Globe, the La Jolla Playhouse and the San Diego Opera.

    “What I’m doing as director is I kind of offer input about the dances, what parts might be changed, how the program might be rearranged,” Isaacs said. “I try to let [the students] figure out costuming and how to stage the shows.

    “We do this every year and we go through the same process, which is the undergraduate dance majors [each choreograph] a piece and it is their opportunity to showcase their work in a real theater with real stage lights and a paying audience,” Isaacs said. “The overall thing about the concert is it is their opportunity to show their work in a major venue.”

    Show dates are May 28 and May 29 at 8 p.m. in Mandeville Auditorium.

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