Aug. 11, 2009
CONTACT: Gordon Ovenshine:
SRU's Ursula Payne earns invitation to international dance festival
SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Ursula Payne, Slippery Rock University professor of dance, has been invited to present original choreography at the prestigious American Dance Guild Performance Festival 2009 in New York City Sept. 10-13. Fifty-two dancers from around the world will have their work presented.
Payne will present the solo dance "In her Solitude: Lest We Forget." The choreography honors Christine Clark, her late grandmother who died in 2007, and other ancestors for their influence on her life.
"I was really close to my grandmother," Payne said. "I stayed with her a lot in my early years because my parents were still in college. She was a very strong woman. She was the matriarch of our family."
Payne described her five-minute choreography as a duet between herself and a rocking chair, which she uses as a metaphor for her grandmother and other ancestors. Payne will present the work in a silk dress with a hint of lace, like a dress from the 1930s.
"I am trying to give a sense of the haunting presence of my ancestors' spirit by using the rocking chair as a prop," she said. "The solo becomes a duet of myself dancing and the chair rocking, to symbolize all those ancestors who pass through your life."
Metaphorically, the choreography also touches on mortality, aging and slavery, she said. Payne submitted her work to the festival, which reviewed it and asked her to perform.
The festival, at the new Manhattan Movement Arts Theater, will include five programs exploring the roots of modern dance. Payne will dance opening night. The festival is a blend of international artists who are making contemporary and historical dances. Several works by modern choreographer pioneers Donald McKayle and the late Erick Hawkins will be presented throughout the four-day festival. McKayle, a choreographer, teacher and writer, is best known for creating socially conscious works in the 1950s and 1960s that expressed the black experience in America. Hawkins, who died in 1994, championed contemporary choreography and insisted hat works be presented with live music.
"Donald was a big inspiration to me," Payne said. "My master of fine arts project at The Ohio State University was a reconstruction of his masterwork 'Rainbow Round My Shoulder.'"
Payne said performing at an international festival would indirectly benefit dance majors at SRU. "Performing my solo work in these venues keeps me in touch with the demands of the field and what it takes to be a dancer," she said. "I bring all of what I learn from each opportunity to choreograph, teach or perform into the classroom through mentoring, encouragement and continually refining my own teaching of dance technique and performance courses."
Payne, an award-winning dancer, choreographer and artistic director of Soul Deep Creations, graduated from SRU and joined the University as a faculty member in 1996. She has also presented nationally and internationally. "This Woman's Work," a national collaborative involving Payne and six other African-American female choreographers, was selected for inclusion in Dance Magazine's "25 to Watch" list for 2006.
At SRU, Payne teaches "Modern Dance," "Advanced Modern Dance," "Jazz," "Dance Kinesiology," "Repertory," "Dance Composition," "Wellness for Dancers" and serves as artistic director for SRU's dance theatre.
Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania's premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.