The newly formed Dance Program in Theater and Performance Studies at the University of Chicago is centered around the belief that dance and embodied research are critical to the performing arts, to broad cultural literacy, and to the advancement of cross-disciplinary scholarship.

In seeking to advance dance as both a physical practice and critical form of research, the Dance Program offers a range of studio and studio-seminar courses as well as co-curricular technique classes. The offerings reach students of all abilities, from beginners to those seeking pre-professional opportunities within a liberal arts education.  

The Dance Program faculty is comprised of professional dance artists and scholars, and is led by Julia Rhoads, Director of Dance and Artistic Director of Lucky Plush Productions, a MacArthur Award-winning dance-theater company based in Chicago.

Curricular offerings can be found in the TAPS course listings. Co-curricular offerings are listed below. To get the most up-to-date information about TAPS dance offerings, join the dance listserv or email Julia Rhoads, Director of Dance, at jrhoads1@uchicago.edu. For more information about student-led dance groups and events, go to the Dance Council page.

Fall quarter Dance Technique Classes

Theater and Performance Studies will hold three weekly dance technique classes as part of its new Dance Program. These non-credit bearing classes are free to University of Chicago students and are geared toward students with an intermediate or higher level of experience within the form being taught. Space is limited, so there will be a strict attendance policy.  

If you have questions about whether a class is a fit for your level of experience, contact Julia Rhoads, Director of Dance and Lecturer in TAPS, at jrhoads1@uchicago.edu.

Ballet Technique

Instructor: Natalie Nespoli Moreira
Tuesdays, 3:30p-5:00p
Ida Noyes Hall 
Capacity: Space Limited | 
Sign-up Form
Class Description: Natalie draws upon Russian-based techniques and maintains a classical progression from barre to center work, allowing students to build the strength and stamina required to execute a range of movements across the floor. She also brings contemporary influences to her combinations, with a focus on weight shifting, spirals, moving through space, and personal expression. Students are guided to be in relationship to their goals, creating an environment that is responsive to individual capabilities while encouraging a deep appreciation of the form. 

Flying Low & Contemporary Phase Work

Instructor: Michel Rodriguez Cintra
Wednesdays, 5:00p-6:30p
Bartlet Rehearsal Room (BARS)
Capacity: Space Limited | 
Sign-up Form
Class Description: Class begins with floor work that draws from modern dance lineages and David Zambrano’s Flying Low technique, preparing the body to move with ease and efficiency. Michel focuses on the floor as an extension of the body, supporting students to be grounded and centered as a means of gaining buoyancy. The class culminates in contemporary phrase work that is highly physical and playfully dynamic.

 

Hip-Hop: House Dance Aesthetics 

Instructor: Kelsa "K-Soul" Robinson 
Fridays, 4:30p-6:00p
Bartlet Rehearsal Room (BARS)
Capacity: Space Limited | Sign-up Form
Class Description: Students will learn techniques and underlying grooves associated with house dance, a form that grew out of the house music subculture in Chicago and New York in the early 1980s, and is now widely practiced across the globe. The class will reinforce hallmarks of house movement including the counter-pull of energies in the body, intricate footwork patterns, polyrhythmic musicality, and freestyle (improvisation). Interspersing cultural contexts of the form, Kelsa builds a sense of community in her classes that supports students to take risks and to find the balance between strong technical training and cathartic release.


NATALIE NESPLOI MOREIRA is a native of East Lansing, Michigan, where she trained from a young age in Vaganova ballet and Polish Folkloric dancing. At 14 years old, she was given a scholarship to train full-time at Bossov Ballet Theatre, where she had the opportunity to perform in St. Petersburg, Russia for Dance Open. She continued her training at Gelsey Kirkland Academy in New York City. Natalie began her professional career at Columbia Classical Ballet in South Carolina, followed by numerous freelance projects and performances in New York City and abroad. With a growing interest in contemporary dance practices, Natalie moved to Florida to dance for Sarasota Contemporary Dance (SCD), where she danced for 3 seasons. While at SCD, Natalie was exposed to a wide range of choreographers and was invited to choreograph her own work for the company. She also developed her teaching practice at several local studios. Natalie is new to Chicago and she looks forward to bringing her curiosity and knowledge of ballet and contemporary dance forms to new teaching and dancing opportunities.

MICHEL RODRIGUEZ CINTRA is originally from Havana, Cuba, where he was a principal dancer with Danza Contemporanea de Cuba. Since 2013, Michel has been a collaborating ensemble member with Lucky Plush Productions, where he has originated roles in numerous evening-length works. Michel has also performed with The Cambrians, Hedwig Dances, Concert Dance Inc., and as a guest artist with Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. Choreography credits include Hedwig Dances, Visceral Dance Chicago, and Dance in the Parks, among others.  Michel was named one of Dance Magazine’s “25 To Watch” in 2014, one of “The Men of 2010” by Time Out Chicago, and is the recipient of the 2013 3Arts Award in Dance. Michel has been on faculty at Columbia College Chicago, and regularly teaches master classes across the US through Lucky Plush’s touring program. Other teaching credentials include Fabrica de Arte Cubano, Chicago Dance Crash, the Cambrians summer dance intensive, and Alma Dance School.

 
KELSA "K-SOUL" ROBINSON is a dance artist, choreographer, and educator grounded in the underground house, Hip-Hop and street-dance communities. She is Co-Founder/Co-Artistic Director of BraveSoul Movement and a member of the internationally known street-dance crew, Venus Fly. Kelsa has performed and presented work at the Museum of Contemporary Art (Chicago, IL), B.Supreme (London, UK), B-girl Be (Minneapolis, MN) J.U.I.C.E. Hip-Hop Dance Festival (Hollywood, CA), Constellation/Links Hall (Chicago, IL) and Pritzker Pavilion (Chicago, IL).  Kelsa is Assistant Professor of Instruction at The Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago, Director of Columbia’s new Hip-Hop Studies Minor, and Curator of The B-SERIES, a biannual festival and co-curricular program celebrating Hip-Hop & street dance culture at the College since 2013.  Kelsa holds a bachelor's degree in sociology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a master of urban planning and policy from the University of Illinois at Chicago. 

 

Fall quarter Dance Workshops

Theater and Performance Studies will hold six dance workshops this quarter as part of its new Dance Program. These workshops are free to University of Chicago students and are geared toward a range of technical abilities (level is specified within the description). Space is limited, so please sign-up using the attached forms.

Ballet Technique with Benjamin Wardell
Sat Oct 26, 10:00a-12:00p
Ida Noyes Dance Room
Capacity: 35 students | sign-up here
Using a traditional ballet structure that progresses from barre work to center combinations, this intermediate-advanced class brings a contemporary lens to classical training with a focus on gravity, momentum, and effective use of turnout. Emphasis is placed on maintaining weight distribution and balance through continuous motion.

Afro-Contemporary with Vershawn Sanders-Ward 
Sat Nov 2, 10:00a-12:00p
Bartlett Rehearsal Room
Capacity: 25 students | sign-up here
If you love Afro-House music you will enjoy this class! Open to dancers of all levels, this upbeat workshop fuses Africanist movement vocabulary, Chicago House and modern dance forms. In addition to building core strength and endurance, the class focuses on suppleness in the spine, release in the pelvis, and rhythmic articulation within the movement.

Breakdance Workshop with Ryley Mikos
Sat Nov 9, 7:00p-9:00p
Bartlett Rehearsal Room (BARS)
Capacity: 25 students | sign-up here
Build your confidence and creativity through Hip Hop and the curriculum of The Breaking Program. This 2-hour workshop focuses on conditioning, finding flow in and out of movements, and understanding the levels, angles and speed changes that form the basis of breaking. Participants should have a base-level experience in Hip Hop, breakdance, or related movement practice. 

Kathak Technique with Anindita Neogy  
Sun Nov 10, 3:00p-5:00p 
Bartlett Rehearsal Room
Capacity: 25 students | sign-up here
Open to students with a base level of dance experience, this workshop begins with traditional Kathak exercises that are designed to work out the entire body with a focus on rhythm, hand gestures, and delicate facial expressions. Participants will also learn fusion-based choreography that incorporates a contemporary approach to Kathak in combination with world music.

Contemporary Repertory with Robyn Mineko Williams
Sat Nov 16, 10:00a-12:00p
Bartlett Rehearsal Room
Capacity: 25 students | sign-up here
Open to intermediate and advanced dancers, this 2-hour workshop begins with a contemporary-based warm-up and is followed by guided movement exploration and intricate phrase work from the recent works of Robyn Mineko Williams.

Dance Improvisation with Meghann Wilkinson
Fri Nov 22, 6:00p-8:00p 
Bartlett Rehearsal Room
Capacity: 25 students | sign-up here
Open to dancers, actors, and movement-curious beginners, this 2-hour workshop is centered around the art of in-the-moment decision making through movement. Playful exercises and improvisational scores allow participants to hone their kinesthetic awareness and leave with a toolkit for starting choreography, becoming more present in their bodies, and developing an improvisation practice for research, performance, or fun. 

 


BENJAMIN HOLLIDAY WARDELL is the founder and Creative Director of The Cambrians. His career began with The Cincinnati Ballet, where he achieved the rank of soloist before moving to San Francisco to dance with Alonzo King’s LINES Ballet. He has also been a company member of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago and was a collaborating ensemble member of Lucky Plush Productions for 5 years. Ben founded The Cambrians in 2015 as a platform for generating large-scale, complex collaborations in which members of numerous dance genres and communities contribute their knowledge, movement and creativity to the creation of singular performance processes. Ben is the recipient of a 2014 Illinois Arts Council Fellowship and a Chicago Dancemakers Forum Lab Artist Award. 

VERSHAWN SANDERS-WARD is founding Artistic Director of Chicago-based Red Clay Dance Company. Her work has been presented at festivals in New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Kalamazoo, Martha’s Vineyard, Toronto, Toubab Dialaw, Senegal, Kampala, and Uganda. She is a 2017 Dance/USA Leadership Fellow, a 2013 3Arts awardee, and recipient of a 2009 Choreography Award from Harlem Stage NYC. She holds an MFA in Dance from New York University and a BFA in Dance from Columbia College Chicago. Sanders-Ward has served as an adjunct faculty member, facilitated residencies, and received choreographic commissions from Columbia College Chicago, Northwestern University, Knox College, City Colleges of Chicago, AS220, and the National Theatre in Kampala, Uganda.  In 2015 & 2018, NewCity named her as one of “Fifty People Who Really Perform for Chicago.” 

RILEY MIKOS founded The Breaking Program in order to provide breaking classes and private instruction to students and breakers in Chicago and its surrounding suburbs. The Breaking Program was initially designed as an extracurricular activity for grades 1-12 where students learn authentic Hip-Hop/Breakdancing from certified teachers with years of training and experience. Classes focus on strength, balance, and respect, and allow students to dance with a variety of partners. The Breaking Program is also a performing arts company that provides live entertainment and services for corporate events, celebrations, theme parks, sporting events, festivals and more. Ryley customizes performances to fit the needs of the events and communities that they reach.  

ANANDITA NEOGY is an award winning Kathak dancer, instructor, and choreographer from India. She completed her training under various maestros of Kathak dance and has presented her work in India, Germany, and the US at venues including Delhi International Arts Festival, International Dance Festival, Cuttack, Kultur Nacht Germany, Nritta Samarpana Festival Chicago, Rhythms of the world Fox communities, Jayadev Festival, and the Alvin Ailey Citigroup Theater as part of the New York Kathak Festival 2019. Anindita is the recipient of prestigious awards like National Nritta Shiromani or Dancing Jewel, Jayadev National Award, Bidagdha Nartaki award, and she was awarded the 2018 fellowship from Indian Raga North American fellowship for Kathak.  She currently resides in Wisconsin where she continues to teach and perform, and serves on the Wisconsin Dance Council. For more information, visit aninditaneogy.com

ROBYN MINEKO WILLIAMS danced for River North Dance Chicago and was a member of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago for twelve seasons. She has created works for Hubbard Street, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Malpaso Dance Company, and Charlotte Ballet, among others, and presentations of her work include the Kennedy Center, Joyce Theatre, Jacob’s Pillow, American Dance Festival and MCA Chicago. She is a four time Princess Grace Foundation-USA grant recipient and press features include Dance Magazine's “25 to Watch” in 2014, Chicago Magazine’s “Best Choreographer” in 2016, and NewCity’s “Players: People Who Really Perform for Chicago” in 2016 and 2018. Projects in the works include Echo Mine, a full-length work inspired by dance icon and founding Hubbard Street member Claire Bataille, and the continuance of her site-sensitive performance series, Undercover Episodes. Visit robynminekowilliams.com for more.
 

MEGHANN WILKINSON is a collaborating ensemble member of Lucky Plush Productions, where she has originated roles in numerous nationally-touring dance theater works. Other performance credits include the Neo-Futurists, Peter Carpenter Performance Project, and Mordine & Company. Meghann was Assistant Choreographer for Lookingglass Theatre’s The Great Fire, Movement Director for Walkabout Theater’s Crow, and she has been a guest choreographer for numerous festivals and dance programs. She organized for the Chicago Seminar on Dance and Performance and the Society of Dance History Scholars and has taught at Northwestern University, Dance Center Evanston, Visceral Dance Chicago, and Lucky Plush. Meghann is a part-time faculty member in the dance and theater programs at Columbia College Chicago.