Jerel Hilding remembers that it wasn't easy to earn the praise of legendary choreographer Twyla Tharp.
Hilding performed in three Tharp works as a member of the Joffrey Ballet.
"Once I was asked to perform a section from 'Deuce Coupe II." I really messed it up, and her one comment to me was 'OK Jerel, now tell me what you THINK the steps are,'" says Hilding, a Kansas University dance instructor. "On the flip side, after a performance of 'Cacklin' Hen,' she told me 'You really were moving out there tonight.'
"Hearing her say that was high praise in my mind."
Now Hilding is in Tharp's shoes. He and fellow instructor Patrick Suzeau are teaching Tharp's "Torelli" to a group of KU student dancers for the University Dance Company's fall concerts, set for 7:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday at the Lied Center, 1600 Stewart Drive.
Tickets are $10 for the public, $7 for students and seniors, and can be purchased by calling 864-2787.
Set to Giuseppe Torelli's Concerto in D minor, the 1971 piece illustrates the early Tharp style. Eight highly structured movement phrases begin the dance and form the basis for the subsequent improvisations by the dancers.
"The dancers love the freedom they have been given to improvise movement based on the eight phrases that were created for the dance," Hilding says. "We are using about twice as many dancers as 'Torelli' had when it was first performed in 1971. She has given us a free rein to stage the dance. This provides a great opportunity for more students to experience her choreography, which is part of our goal at KU."
Also on the program are new offerings by the KU dance faculty:
¢ "Cycles," by Suzeau and Muriel Cohan, based on their witnessing of the ecstatic celebration of the summer solstice in Lithuania and featuring Suzeau as a soloist.
¢ "Pas TrÃs Classique," by Suzeau, an exuberant ballet for five dancers to the music of Bela Bartok.
¢ A traditional SoleÃ¡, choreographed by Kansas City flamenca Miel Castagna and danced by Michelle Heffner Hayes with live guitar accompaniment by Beau Bledsoe, exploring soledad, an intimate, often painful or ironic solitude.
¢ "Cradling Persephone," by Hayes, explores adolescence as a point of entry into the adult world with 11 female dancers and set to music by Peter Gabriel and Bjork.
¢ "After the Harvest," by Willie Lenoir, three young women decide it's time to celebrate after harvest.