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Cultural diversity explored in new Weber State dance, music production

Friday , April 13, 2018 - 5:00 AM

OGDEN — Cultural diversity is the theme behind a Weber State University production that merges students from dance and music to celebrate varied music forms, including Latin Jazz.

The performance, titled “Shared Ground,” also explores immigrant experiences as students perform and dance to audio recordings featuring sound bites of stories told by Latino students.

Performances, featuring WSU’s Orchesis Dance Theatre, Moving Company and Jazz Ensemble, will take place at 7:30 p.m. April 13-14 in the Val A. Browning Center and will be presented by the Telitha E. Lindquist College of Arts & Humanities.

The project was created by three WSU faculty members — music professor Daniel Jonas, who conceived the project; history assistant professor Jeffrey Richey; and dance professor Erik Stern, the director of the production.

The second half of the performance will consist of dances choreographed by seniors for thesis projects.

“It’s a very varied concert,” said Conner Erickson, a senior dance student who also studies communication. “I think the audience will be pleasantly surprised. It’s going to be cool and interesting.”

With many different technical aspects, the live Jazz Ensemble and a senior piece with children dancers, Erickson said those who attend will have much to take in.

“There will be a lot of different experiences for an audience to interact with,” he said.

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Much work went into collecting sound bites for the first part of the performance.

While the subject of immigrant experience now is a political topic, Richey said the recordings used are not meant to make a political statement.

“It’s a human story about the lives of young people in this community,” he said.

Stern defined the performance with the audio sound bites as a new art form that takes “powerful voices of our collective history” and explores what connects people together.

“Really sometimes, the arts resolve some tensions between cultures by coming up with new forms,” Stern said.

During the process of exploring ideas for the performance more than a year ago, Stern said he and Jonas approached Adrienne Andrews, the chief diversity officer at WSU.

Andrews introduced the men to Richey, who had created a Latinos in U.S. History course. Richey then collected Latino student oral histories last summer.

What came about as a result, Stern said, was a “dynamic celebration” of art forms.

“It’s kind of a feast,” Stern said. “You keep seeing and experiencing different things. That’s what’s most impressive about the entire thing.”

Calling the performance unusual, Stern said the creation is homegrown.

“Some of the music is original and it involves a lot of different people,” he said. “It braids them together.”

Jonas described “Shared Ground” as “an incredibly unique performance” from many different angles.

“If you are an audience member who is coming to this show, you are going to be presented a lot of different styles, dances and things you normally wouldn’t see,” Jonas said.

Tickets now are on sale at or 801-626-8500. Tickets are $13 for adults and $11 for children, students, seniors and members of the military.

You may reach reporter JaNae Francis at [email protected] or 801-625-4228. Follow her on Twitter at @JaNaeFrancisSE or on Facebook at

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