Contemporary Dance Theatre Expresses Human Connection, Spirituality Through Movement

Contemporary Dance Theatre Expresses Human Connection, Spirituality Through Movement

The high-energy concert features original choreography by guest artists alongside Martha Graham’s historically significant “Dark Meadow”

BYU Contemporary Dance Theatre (CDT) will celebrate spirituality and the human experience through movement when the company’s Pardoe Theatre concert opens on Feb. 7.

Contemporary dance is an ever-evolving field, employing innovative techniques to explore and express broader messages in a way that words cannot. Though the CDT performance will take audiences through a range of genres, moods and themes — from home and family to sentient robots — the connecting thread between each piece is the beauty and dignity of the human family.

In keeping with the mission of the BYU company to highlight real-world subject material and connect students with working artists, the CDT show features original choreography from two dance professors and five guest artists — Brandon Welch, Jenn Freeman, Jesse Obremski, Martin Durov and Laja Field — several of whom narrowed in on the spiritual element of the human experience for their respective pieces.

One such piece comes from Brandon Welch, a professional dancer and the executive director of Awakening Movement, a faith-based dance company in New York City.

“He’s doing great, big things that the world would recognize as substantial,” said Nathan Balser, the artistic director of the concert, of Welch. “But he also feels a real draw, a pull to be true to his Christian roots.”

Welch’s piece is titled “Abide,” and focuses on the dancers building and abiding within a home. Balser is hopeful that audiences will resonate with the choreography, but he also chose to work with Welch to expand the dancers’ perspectives.

“Sometimes our students shy away a little bit from our Christian roots in the work they make because it can be seen as sentimental or cheesy,” Balser said. “I wanted to bring Brandon in because he has a different voice. Who is this guy who sees himself as a Christian artist, and how does he interface with dance?”

While CDT embraces the improvisational and adaptive elements of contemporary dance, Balser also recognizes the value of technique and historical study. This year, the students in the company will learn from the legacy of famed dancer and choreographer Martha Graham as they close the first act of the campus concert with “Dark Meadow.”

“It’s one of Graham’s most famous pieces,” said Balser. “We need to understand our past so we know where we’ve come and where we’re headed. Martha Graham is one of the main pioneers of modern dance; hers is a specific technique, and everything you do with technique is designed to help you with the performance.”

“I try to make it more of an educational experience for the students,” Balser continued. “I think this concert is as much for the dancers as it is for the audience.”

The concert will end with every member of the company on stage for a piece titled “Change-Over,” choreographed by guest artist Jenn Freeman.

“There’s a lot of harmony inside the piece,” said Balser. “It’s about the moments in life when you have to make a decision — it’s about making a decision and letting whatever happens change you. There’s a fundamental truth in the piece.”

“I’m hoping that one of these pieces will reach out to each audience member,” Balser added. “I think they’ll feel the light of it and I think they’ll feel the goodness of it, and that’s exciting to me.”


Tickets and Show Details

Performance Dates and Times: Feb. 7-9 | 7:30 p.m. and Feb. 9 | 2 p.m.

Location: Pardoe Theatre, Franklin S. Harris Fine Arts Center, BYU

Price: $7-13

Tickets: Available in person at the BYU Ticket Office in the HFAC or Marriott Center, by phone at 801.422.2981 or online at