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WT dancers offer striking 'Portrait' of their art in upcoming performances
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Caleb Summers and Cole Medley rehearse for "Portraits of Dance."
Photo by Hilary Hulsey

By Chip Chandler — Digital Content Producer

Dancers at West Texas A&M University will explore what art means now in performances beginning Thursday.

Portraits of Dance will be staged at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday in the Happy State Bank Studio Theatre in the Sybil B. Harrington Fine Arts Complex. Tickets are $12 for adults and $8 for seniors and students. Call 806-651-2804.

Students worked with guest choreographers Matthew Lindstrom, Meg Paul Laura Harrell and Travis Prokop, as well as WT instructors Crystal Bertrand and Leslie Williams, to develop the program.

One highlight is a new collaboration with the WT Symphony Orchestra, which will play on stage as dancer Ashley Johnson performs in "One on One," a piece choreographed by Williams and Johnson.

"You get to see the natural movement of the musicians while they're standing," Williams said. "Eventually, we'll see if we can get this into a longer work."

Working with the guest choreographers has been a highlight for the students.

"It affords you the opportunity to work with someone other than faculty," senior dancer Mark Gold said. "A fresh perspective is nice when you are working as an artist. That new perspective can reinforce things that our faculty already stresses to us."

Lindstrom teaches at Interlochen Arts Academy. Harrell is an adjunct dance faculty member at Lone Star College, and Prokop, her choreography partner, teaches at Lamar University and is a member of NobleMotion Dance in Houston; he graduated from WT. Paul has been a principal dancer with the Joffrey Ballet and is currently ballet master for Complexions Contemporary Ballet.

"With this lineup, it really gave (the students) a nice mix of where we are in dance and the different artists they're going to be working with," Williams said. "It's all three different ways of approaching the same problem."

All three of the guests and Williams' own piece are "a direct reflection of what we're dealing with in the current political society right now," Williams said.

"Almost all of the pieces have an underlying political theme, but it's not really in your face," she continued. "It's the things we're dealing with and how are we, as artists, interpreting them?"

Harrell and Prokop, as the youngest choreographers, "really dug emotionally deep with the dancers, kind of tearing them apart to ... find the raw emotion that we need for the piece," Williams said.

"Matt is a little older ... and really collaborated with the dancers, really focused in on the collaborative aspect of the work," Williams continued. "And Meg is ... a taskmaster. ... She really asked them to get deep into the piece emotionally but with their own stories instead of dictating a story to them."

The concert also will feature lighting by guest designer Shawn Irish, a former WT professor now working at the University of Arkansas.




Chip Chandler is a digital content producer for Panhandle PBS. He can be contacted at, at @chipchandler1 on Twitter and on Facebook. Hilary Hulsey contributed to this report.