Finding ‘Common Ground’

Washington University presents MFA dance concert March 24

Heather Beal. (Photo: James Byard/Washington University)

Sometimes words are not enough. When arguments fail and dialogue falls short, art and performance can help reframe important questions with complexity and nuance.

At 8 p.m. Saturday, March 24, the Performing Arts Department in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis will present “Common Ground,” an evening of thought-provoking dance that addresses issues of culture, identity and social justice.

“In my choreography, I balance humorous, exaggerative pedestrian movement with modern and jazz dance vocabularies to comment on issues like stress culture in academia, gender power dynamics and society’s obsession with technology,” said Sam Gaitsch, one of three choreographers who together comprise the inaugural class for the department’s MFA in Dance Program.

With her work “ENTERpersonal,” Gaitsch added, “I wanted to showcase the gradual shedding of the facades we put up to protect ourselves, the power of letting ourselves be vulnerable, and the necessity for supporting one another as beautifully broken individuals.”

Sam Gaitsch. (Photo: James Byard/Washington University)

Christine Knoblauch-O’Neal, professor of practice in dance and director of graduate studies, noted that each MFA candidate has “crafted a unique dance specific in its intention and structure to their aesthetic. The works represent a journey, an extension of each choreographer.”

The evening will begin with “Shiki (Four Seasons)” by Mariko Kumanomido. The piece “explores the idea of change and cycles” and is set to Max Richter’s “Recomposed,” a modern version of the “Four Seasons” concerti by Antonio Vivaldi.

Next will come Gaitsch’s piece, followed by Heather Beal’s “#triggerwarning #TheRevolutionWillNotBeTelevisedButItWillBeLiveInConcert #staywoke.”

“This dance takes a look at the complicated, traumatic relationship between America and African-American women,” Beal said. “How can I love and live in a country that has been built on the bloody whipped backs of my ancestors?”

“Common Ground” is free, open to the public and takes place in Edison Theatre, Mallinckrodt Center, 6465 Forsyth Blvd. For more information, call the PAD at (314) 935-5858 or visit

Mariko Kumanomido. (Photo: James Byard/Washington University)