Duane Cyrus is an associate professor at the School of Dance here at UNCG. He teaches Dance technique as well as other courses on Arts Administration and Entrepreneurship. Cyrus received his undergraduate from the Juilliard School and his Graduate degree from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. He has danced in multiple companies including the Martha Graham Company and the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. He also has appeared in the original London production of Disney’s The Lion King.
When referring to these accomplishments Cyrus attributes his mother for exposing him to the arts when he was young. Growing up in New York, Cyrus had significant opportunities to train and improve in his craft. Cyrus has also gained much experience abroad with being an independent artist in Europe and Asia. Cyrus values these experiences he has had to study and perform in other countries. “Being out in the world and doing is another type of education,” he says. From his education standpoint, “Studying abroad is a huge experience for students that I would support.” Through Cyrus’ experience as an independent artist he has also learned to have value in entrepreneurship. As a teacher he wants to pass all his knowledge on to his students, which is why he developed something called “Theatre of Movement.” This is the method in which all Cyrus’ creative and education work “comes together.”
Cyrus recently lead an “Evening with the Creative Class” at the UNCG School of Dance. In one word Cyrus explained the experience as “amazing.” This event is an informal setting in which anybody, students and the public, can come and learn about why and how artists do what they do. This event is interdisciplinary, not just showing Duane Cyrus’ work but also works like spoken word, visual art and scholarly discussions. Cyrus makes the point “For us as creative artists there is also a scholarly component to what we do.” Theatre requires more than just performance it requires research and understanding. At this event they invite several artists from both UNCG and the community, along with a scholar. In this past “Evening with the Creative Class” they had a scholar involved in peace and conflict studies who did a workshop on trauma recovery. The aspect that excited Cyrus about this was that “it wasn’t just dance.” People come in from different places and see artwork and discuss it. Cyrus describes this event as an “intermediary moment” in which people are not seeing the beautiful, polished final product but are involved in the process of making art.
Through Cyrus’ involvement in collaborating different artists and disciplines he says that, “one of the most exciting things about making work is the exploration.” Cyrus explained his process of art as like scientific discovery. In science a hypothesis is created but that hypothesis is not a forgone conclusion. “They haven’t said yea I know how to cure cancer, they say I think I know how to cure cancer.” Collaborative forms of art is like a science experiment in that there is a trial and error experience in which you try different things to figure out what works best. In the same way, Cyrus does not go into the studio knowing what is going to happen. Cyrus sees artists as “intelligent and contributing factors.” Artists are intelligent and that includes dance artists at UNCG. Along with dance classes, dance majors study history and entrepreneurship. In addition to intelligence, Cyrus “wants the artist’s input in the process.” With regard to collaboration, Cyrus expresses that, “it’s not just about dance, so the dance steps are important but the scenic elements, the lighting, the costuming, the concept itself are all really exciting to me as an artist.” Cyrus doesn’t even like the title choreographer because he sees himself as more of a director and a producer.
The School of Dance at UNCG is continually putting on performances that anyone is welcome to come see. On November 18 and 19 the Fall Dances concert will be held in the Dance theater. The performances are at 8:00 p.m. with a matinee performance at 2:00 p.m. on Nov. 19 in the Coleman building. This performance will include the advanced repertory group let by Cyrus called “The Collective.” This is the course where students practice Cyrus’ method, the theater of movement. The dancers are learning a work by Martha Graham, who is a historically significant pioneer of modern dance.
The piece is entitled “Prelude to Action” and is performed by an all women group. This piece was created by Martha Graham in 1936 in response to the Spanish Civil War. This piece is also included in the “War and Peace Imagined” theme that the Dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts has installed. Along with performing in Fall Dances, the group will be traveling to New York City to perform at the Joyce Theatre, a well known dance venue in New York. They will be performing it on the same program as the Martha Graham dance company. There is also another “Evening with the Creative Class” scheduled for the spring semester, taking place April 5 at 7:00 p.m. in the Coleman Building in Studio 322. These just a few examples of performances happening in the school of dance and there are many more interesting things happening in the school of dance. There are performances as well as interesting courses that students can take. Cyrus encourages students to take advantage of the myriad offerings in the arts at UNCG.