Wylliams/Henry Contemporary Dance Company begins its 21st season by honoring the Picasso of modern dance, Martha Graham. Under the direction of artistic director Mary Pat Henry, the cast performs Graham's "Diversion of Angels," as well as works by Henry, Leni Wylliams and others, at 6 p.m. tonight (and at 8 p.m. September 15) at UMKC's White Recital Hall (4949 Cherry). Tickets cost $15–$24 and and can be purchased at wylliams-henry.org or by calling 816-235-6222. The Pitch talked with Henry about the state of dance in KC.
The Pitch: What made you come to Kansas City? How does the dance scene in KC compare with the many other places you have danced?
Henry: I was working in New York, teaching for two ballet companies, and working as a guest artist and teacher. I loved my work, but I had a young daughter, and I felt I did not have time with her. I always knew I wanted to teach in a college because I like training a dancer from all the diverse aspects of dance. I saw an ad in Dance Magazine for the Conservatory of Music and Dance at UMKC, and it intrigued me. When I came here, I knew it was a place I could help create dancers and artists. KC had a vibrant arts community, and I had spent most of my time in New York and London prior to coming, so that was important to me. It is a wonderful city for artists, and it has continued to mushroom and grow since I have been here.
One of your own choreographed pieces is in the show. How did you come up with the story behind "Whispering Bench"?
I heard Yo-Yo Ma playing traditional Appalachian music, and it just came to me. I saw a small town where people gather and talk each day, and I remembered the children's game Telephone. I thought I would do a playful take on gossiping and the humorous things that can happen along the way.
How does it feel to be celebrating the 21st anniversary of Wylliams/Henry?
Celebrating our 21st anniversary is remarkable. I never take it for granted, and I am always honored that these artists work with me and present beautiful, exciting dance in Kansas City.