Dance 2016
Drew Yowell, an ECU junior, will be performing in Dance 2016 which opens Jan. 28 at McGinnis Theatre. Here, Yowell dances in “Rhapsody” choreographed by Zalman Raffael Grinberg, who is choregrapher in residence at the Carolina Ballet. (Photos by Cliff Hollis)

Dance 2016 opens at McGinnis Theatre

Jan. 27, 2016

By Crystal Baity
ECU News Services

From contemporary to classical ballet, a diverse mix of styles will highlight East Carolina University’s Dance 2016 opening Jan. 28.

Drew Yowell, an ECU junior who will dance in works by three different guest choreographers, said each piece is completely unique and different.

Yowell is one of nine dancers who will showcase guest choreographer Ji-Eun Lee’s contemporary piece inspired by dreams. Lee works with the Prague Chamber Ballet and is in residence with ECU’s School of Theatre and Dance this academic year.

“Everybody has dreams and the concept of a dream is very different for everybody,” Lee said. “It’s totally up to the audience to interpret.” 

The piece offers a side of modern dance that ECU audiences haven’t really seen, Yowell said. “Her piece incorporates a lot of European dance influences. It’s pure and naked and truthful, focusing on betrayal and the loss of a dream.”
Dance 2016ECU dancers rehearse guest choregrapher Ji-Eun Lee’s contemporary piece “A Sacred Dream.” Lee is in residence at ECU’s School of Theatre and Dance this academic year.

Lee, who has won many international choreographic awards, has taught in Western Europe, Eastern Europe and Asia and welcomed the opportunity to come to ECU.

“ECU’s program is very professional,” Lee said. “ECU provides a lot of opportunities for students and prepares students well.”

The other guest choreographers for Dance 2016 are Richard Smith, a former ECU student and executive director of Inaside Dance Company in Chicago, and Zalman Raffael Grinberg, who is choreographer in residence with the Carolina Ballet of Raleigh.

Smith’s soulful jazz dance style highlights a piece he created just for Dance 2016, which focuses on dealing with the constant ups and downs of life. Grinberg has revived one of his earlier modern ballet works set to “Rhapsody in Blue” by George Gershwin, which will include dancer Sean Armstrong, who is also with the Carolina Ballet. The piece explores the idea of being in “the big city,” incorporating the bad and the good.

Yowell said the experience of working with three choreographers has been wonderful while also challenging, because each had a different focus – from technique to concept – for their piece.

“Going from rehearsal to rehearsal I had to make a mental switch and remember what each choreographer was looking for,” he said. “Rehearsals would also be physically challenging at some points. As a dance major, you’re on your feet doing intricate movement during classes, then you might have a small break to go home or eat but then you’re back in the rehearsal space learning and rehearsing.”

In addition, Yowell was taking 22 credit hours during rehearsals in the fall while working part-time as a delivery driver for Campus Cookies. “Scheduling was taxing. However, I am extremely grateful for the opportunities I was given,” Yowell said. 

Yowell decided on dance after trying a lot of different extracurricular pursuits, from karate to music. His father was in the U.S. Coast Guard, and Yowell’s family moved around a lot, but his father settled in North Carolina when Yowell was in high school. That’s when he discovered ECU.

“After visiting the campus, I fell in love with the architecture of the school,” Yowell said. “I went back home that night and I looked up audition dates. After I auditioned, I had the pleasure of watching Dance 2014 and I was so impressed with the level of talent that I knew I had to go to ECU.”

ECU faculty choreographers include Galena Panova’s excerpts from the Don Quixote ballet, Tommi Galaska with a jazz piece, Dirk Lumbard’s tap and John Dixon, who created a contemporary performance that he explains as “a poetic response and kinesthetic challenge to philosopher G.E. Moore's famous argument, ‘here is one hand, and here is another’ as proof of the external world.”

Performances will be held Jan. 28-30 at 8 p.m., Jan. 31 at 2 p.m. and Feb. 1-2 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15 for the public or $10 for ECU students and youth. For more information, email, call 252-328-6829 or visit

ECU students rehearse “Tap Into Color” in McGinnis Theatre for the School of Theatre and Dance’s production of Dance 2016. The piece was choreographed by ECU faculty member Dirk Lumbard, Arelia Hoy and Erica Bolick.
Dance 2016