Dance dept. press release


MFA in Dance candidates (l to r): Stephen Ursprung, Donna Mejia, Rebecca Hite, Stephanie Simpson, and Autumn Welt.

NORTHAMPTON, Mass.—An exciting and eclectic mix of dance styles will come to life February 2, 3, and 4 at 8 p.m. in Theater 14, Mendenhall Center for the Performing Arts, in a program of thesis project presentations choreographed by graduate dance students Rebecca Hite, Donna Mejia, Stephanie Simpson, Stephen Ursprung, and Autumn Welt.

The projects portray a wide variety of styles, including contemporary dance, hip-hop, Arab-American fusion, and tango. They will take you on a journey through good and evil, to a party with a surprising turn of events, through your deepest fears, and more.

The seven new and innovative works presented in the program are the thesis projects of the choreographers, who are completing their Masters of Fine Arts degrees in performance and choreography in the Smith College Department of Dance. The MFA degree entails two years of specialized training for candidates who have strong ability and interest in pursuing dance at the graduate level.

Tickets are $9 general admission, $5 for students and seniors. Reservations are recommended and may be made by calling (413) 585-ARTS (2787).

About the Choreographers

Rebecca Hite is a second-year MFA candidate in the Smith Department of Dance, where she is currently a teaching fellow in the Five College Dance Consortium. She began dancing at the age of 6 at the Dance Center of Danvers (Danvers, Mass.), where she competed regionally and nationally for many years. Rebecca graduated with a BA in choreography and performance/English literature from Connecticut College, where she worked with renowned artists such as David Dorfman, Lisa Race, Adele Myers, Heidi Henderson, Nicholas Leichter and Jeremy Nelson.

As a transnational fusion dance artist, Donna Mejia has enjoyed a front row seat in the emergence of a new genre of dance called “Tribal Fusion.” Her distinctive aesthetic dialogs the secular dances of North Africa and the Arab world with American hip-hop dance and sub-genres of electronic dance. This form provides a rich arena for the study of cultural imperialism, gender representation, and electronic globalization. Donna also teaches the Brazilian Silvestre Dance Technique and is a primary representative after 20 years of practice. In October of 2011 she was selected by the Fulbright Association to present the 2011 Selma Jeanne Cohen Fund lecture for International Scholarship in Dance, notably for her paper “Digital Diasporas and Transnational Dance Communities: The Effects of the Internet on Identity Formation and Collective Cultural Memory.” She balances her time teaching at Smith, directing the Sovereign Performance Collective, and touring internationally to teach, lecture, and perform for private sponsors, festivals and community organizations. Donna is contentedly addicted to music and sewing, and is honored to parent a spirited and amazing daughter.

mfadance2Stephanie Simpson received her undergraduate degree from Emerson College. Before returning to school, she lived in Los Angeles where she was a member of two modern dance companies, Intersection Dance Project and Louise Reichlin & Dancers. In addition, she performed with a variety of theatres throughout Southern California and was a back-up dancer for several up-and-coming pop artists. Stephanie has choreographed more than 20 musicals on both the east and west coasts. In 2009, she won an NAACP Award for Best Choreography for Ragtime: The Musical.

Stephen Ursprung is a second-year MFA student at Smith. He graduated with a degree in economics and Italian studies from Brown University, where he ran Fusion Dance Company, imPulse Dance Company, and was a guest dancer with Dance Extension (in collaboration with the American Dance Legacy Institute). This past summer he had the great honor to perform at the Confluences VI Conference in Cape Town, South Africa. He has performed work by Paul Taylor and Pilobolus and choreographed promotional videos and events for Columbia Records (Sony/BMG Music Group).

Autumn Welt is from Saco, Maine. She received her bachelors degree from Elon University in North Carolina in 2008. For two years she performed and choreographed with a Maine dance company called Sonar Dance and was involved with The New England Dance Project. She has also performed at the Ogunquit Playhouse in Ogunquit, Maine in their 2009 production of A Chorus Line. While at Smith she has performed in Chris Aiken’s piece Fall Over Water and will also perform in Rebecca Hite’s piece Molt, both being presented at ACDFA in February. Post graduation she is looking forward to a project she is collaborating on with visual artist April Lynn.