Smile Politely

The international eclecticism of October Dance

The University of Illinois Department of Dance regularly presents showcases of faculty, students, and visiting dancers. This semester’s October Dance showcase is this weekend, October 13-15, at 7:30 p.m. in the Colwell Playhouse at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets are $20 for the general public and $10 for U of I students. They are available online

These showcases are incredibly moving, awe-inspiring, and a whole lot of fun. The skill, dexterity, and creativity on display is incredible. It’s an amazing opportunity to see experts and burgeoning experts in the field of dance. 

I reached out to Professor Sara Hook, the new Head of the Department of Dance, to get her take on this weekend’s performance. It sounds amazing, multifaceted in the most sophisticated way, without being exclusionary. I’m really excited about it. 

I encourage you all to go check it out this weekend. In the meantime, learn more about the event and Professor Sara Hook in our interview below. 

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Portrait of Professor Sara J. Hook. She is a white woman with reddish-brown hair. She is wearing a black, v-neck sweater, dark framed glasses, and dangling statement earrings. Her arms are crossed in front of her body and she looks at the camera and gives a small smile. Photo by Elliot Emadian.

Photo by Elliot Emadian, courtesy of the Department of Dance. 

Smile Politely: Thanks so much, Professor Hook, for taking the time to correspond with me! Can you tell me a little about yourself, and your role within UIUC Dance?

Sara Hook: I am a dancer, choreographer and UIUC professor of Dance and the current Head of the Department of Dance. 

SP: What and when is October Dance? Who are the dancers?

Hook: October Dance takes place October 13-15 at 7:30 p.m. in the Colwell Playhouse of Krannert Center for the Performing Arts. The evening features performance by new faculty member and internationally famous hip hop artist Serouj (aka “Midus”) Aprahamian as well as works by two other new faculty members, Alfonso Cervera and Roxane D’Orleans Juste.  Cervera has a background in Ballet Folklorico, experimental dance and Afro-Latinx social dance. D’Orlean Juste is a Bessie Award-winning Haitian-Canadian modern dancer who has had a long career with the esteemed Jose Limon dance company. 

October Dance also features a work by a graduate student from South Korea made for a fellow graduate student from Puerto Rico. So the evening is very international! I also have a work on the show entitled Dick and Janes, a reference to the iconic American children’s early reader series.

SP: What should audience members expect? 

Hook: Audiences should expect an evening of very diverse aesthetic perspectives which makes this a very rich and fun event. Our department is really expanding and we are very proud to be offering a performance that spans a spectrum of forms and traditions.

SP: What do you hope audience members take away from this experience?

Hook: I hope that audience members take away a sense of excitement and curiosity about how dance can be defined and experienced. The international eclecticism of the performance is vibrant and also an important statement. Dance is not confined to one interpretation. And dance is also a relevant art form that seeks to express the present moment. There is joy, virtuosity, expressive passion, and a sense of community and history in these works. There are also live music and beautiful visuals!

SP: How can dance enthusiasts continue to engage with U of I Dance programs, performances, and dancers after this event?

Hook: By coming to our future events! For a full list of our production season please go here.

SP: A question unrelated to dance: What are your favorite things to do / eat / see in C-U?

Hook: My favorite restaurant is Black Dog. I’m a southern girl who loves good barbecue. I love to walk at Meadowbrook Park or in the gardens near Japan House. 

I make every effort I can to attend and support community arts events, from the Boneyard Arts Festival to Friday [Night] Live in Downtown [Champaign] during the summer, to local theater, music, art, and dance events. I love that the C-U community has such a lively arts scene. 

Top photo by Hoi Phan Do, courtesy of the Department of Dance. 


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