Dance Leaps Off Stage, Tours Campus

As a student in the College of Fine Arts, I am used to being surrounded by creative and passionate individuals. I would walk the halls of CFA and hear music and singing, and I would see people rehearsing scenes or going over choreography. It was invigorating to be surrounded by individuals who were so dedicated and passionate about their artistic endeavors. Unfortunately, I haven’t been in the Fine Arts building in over a year.

By Emma Lucas, class of 2021

COVID-19 has impacted each and every one of us in many ways, but that dedication and passion has remained. I am proud to be a part of a college that is working diligently and creatively to give students valuable opportunities in the midst of this pandemic, much like the Department of Theatre and Dance is doing with the dance concert, EchoLocation: The Mobile Tour.

In October 2020, the Department presented Once Vacant: Bodies in Motion...still, a live performance that took place in a parking lot. The audience stayed in their cars and illuminated the dancers with their headlights.

“That’s when we realized the importance of performing live during this time,” said Susie Thiel, director of the dance program. “Not only for the audience, but for our Theatre and Dance choreographers, designers, and all of our students.”

As a performer in this concert, I couldn’t agree more. I found myself surrounded by creative individuals for the first time in months, and I got to perform one last time before I graduate in May. It was a unique concert experience that I will never forget.

This April, the department is presenting EchoLocation: The Mobile Tour, and I couldn’t be more excited to attend this live performance as a audience member. This concert features nine site-specific performances choreographed by UK students and faculty that will be performed at various locations across the University of Kentucky’s campus and the Arboretum, State Botanical Garden of Kentucky. Locations will range from parking garages to rose gardens. The audience will make their way across campus and move from location to location together, getting a tour of the campus while also witnessing nine unique performances. 

“It is important to provide opportunities for our students to work alongside professional choreographers, designers, and directors,” says Thiel, which is why seven of the nine works that will be presented in EchoLocation were choreographed by students. 

Student choreographer Caitlin Espinueva, a junior at UK, says she has felt supported by both her cast and the faculty throughout the entire process.

“It’s my first time choreographing on a collegiate level for a mainstage performance, so it’s a learning curve,” says Espinueva. “It helps that I’m passionate about the topic and that I’m passionate about dance.”

Espinueva’s piece, Unfolded, is a social commentary looking into the industry and culture of fast fashion. 

This concert is special in many ways, especially for freshman dance student Danica Hak.

Dance jumping on stage
Emma Lucas, class of 2021

“Being in the [high school graduating] class of 2020 and having my senior year of high school taken away from me, I missed out on a bunch of unresolved ‘lasts’ involving dance,” says Hak. “For a while, I felt disconnected from dance, but through UK’s dance program and the opportunity to be able to participate in EchoLocation, I feel super inspired and full of love for this beautiful art form again.”

While site-specific concerts are certainly unique, the concept itself isn’t new, explains choreographer and lecturer of dance Stephanie Harris. The inspiration for this mobile tour was a similar production at Hollins University, where Harris recently completed her graduate studies.

“Although site-specific events and concerts have been happening for generations, the pandemic has provided us with new opportunities to envision how site-specific performance could be re-imagined,” says Harris.

Because this concert is site-specific, choreographers have had to adjust to the outdoor landscape.

“With dance, it gets a bit tricky because the dancers have to feel comfortable enough to perform the movement on uneven or abrasive surfaces,” says Espinueva. “Choreographically, I’ve had to take into account any unmovable objects and incorporate that into my piece. For example, there are four concrete benches at my site that I'll have to figure out how to choreograph with and not just around.” 

Additionally, choreographers are exploring how to best utilize their outdoor spaces with the audience in mind.

“Knowing this concert is going to be in-the-round made it a lot easier for me to choreograph with the audience in mind,” says senior student choreographer Genesis Lorjuste, whose piece How it Started vs. How it’s Going addresses everyday anxiety. “Movement occurring in different directions along with the theme of mental illness just makes sense, so I am able to ensure that the audience gets a front view of the dancers at some point.”

One of my favorite things about dance is that just about any kind of topic can be explored and any kind of story can be told, and this concert will be no exception. My fellow classmates have unique ideas that are ready to be shared with an audience, and I cannot wait to listen to what they have to say. Above all, I’m just excited to be witnessing live dance for the first time in a year. It’s proof to me that artists’ dedication and perseverance is unmatched. 

EchoLocation: The Mobile Tour will be presented April 2 at 5pm and April 3 at 1pm and 5pm. All CDC guidelines will be followed during this event and golf carts will be available for those who would like assistance traveling from location to location. Contact the Department of Theatre and Dance at or 859-257-3297 if you require mobility assistance.