Oklahoma City University’s American Spirit Dance Company will present its 33rd annual spring show this weekend. This year’s show, titled Footloose, Frankenstein and Fedoras will feature 24 dance numbers performed by a cast of 158 dancers.
The show will feature fast-tempo tap numbers, chorus and kick lines, dancers dressed as Champagne bottles, big hair from the 1980s, a film noir-style piece, a sexy number, a rhythm tap number performed on different levels of tap boards with microphones attached, a classic number à la Fred Astaire for couples in love, a trip to the crypt, a Civil War officer’s love letter and an homage to our Latin American neighbors, just to name a few.
“The spring show has to be a potpourri of different dances. All of our choreographers submit to me three or four different numbers, and I try to put them together in a way that the show will flow,” said Jo Rowan, professor of dance at OCU and director of the show.
Rowan said her dancers and the audience benefit from the expertise of Brian Marcum, a choreographer for the show.
“Oh my goodness. He’s a triplethreat,” she said. “He has integrity, professionalism and a vast knowledge of what he’s doing. He’s such a good man, a great performer and a very clear and well-prepared teacher.”
Under Rowan’s instruction, the dancers rehearsed for two hours a day, four days a week for five weeks up until one week before the opening performance, at which point they worked to clean up any mistakes. Learning 24 numbers in five weeks is an undertaking for a dance company comprised of 158 members. Rowan overcame this challenge by double-casting her dancers and having them teach each other.
“Everybody benefits if you’re generous with one another,” she said. “It’s a matter of cooperation, communication and planning that makes all of this occur.”
There are no lead dancers in the performance because Rowan strives to teach all of her students equally, she said.
Rowan said she hoped the show would be fun for everyone in the family, even little children or teenage guys who like long-legged chorus girls.
Rowan founded the dance company in 1981 after returning from training at the Bolshoi Ballet in Moscow, Russia, in 1980.
“Our thrust in 1981 was to educate triple threats, musical theater dancers,” she said. “And they could major in tap or major in jazz, major in ballet, but they had to do all three and sing and act. We were the first school in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, America, the world — and Martians don’t do this — so we were the first university to give a degree with an emphasis in either tap or jazz.”
The spring show is at 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday and 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday at Kirkpatrick Fine Arts Center, 2501 N. Blackwelder Ave., on the OCU campus. All tickets must be reserved and cost $20. Tickets are available at okcu.edu/ticketoffice or by calling 208-5227.