Professional dance company performs and teaches at GV


Courtesy / GVSU Department of Music, Theatre, and Dance

Allison Bair, Staff Writer

As a part of the Grand Valley State University Arts Celebration, South Chicago Dance Theatre (SCDT), a professional dance company, performed their show titled “Energy | Power | Grace” at the Haas Center for Performing Arts. 

In addition to her company’s performance, Executive Artistic Director of SCDT Kia Smith taught classes for the GVSU dance program students and hosted an audition for spots in her company.    

Smith began her dance career at age 16, later than most professionals do. She said ever since she was a kid, she was drawn to dance and knew she wanted to have a dance company.  

Smith pursued her dance journey and attended Western Michigan University where she obtained her BFA in dance. Later, Smith founded her dance company in 2017 while working towards her Master’s degree.

“I knew I wanted to call my company ‘South Chicago Dance Theatre’ for a long time because my company has a long history on the south side (of Chicago),” Smith said. “My family came to the south side of Chicago during the Great Migration, so my family has been here for a long time so I just feel very tied to it.” 

SCDT is in their 6th season as a company and Smith emphasizes that she has barely “scratched the surface” of where they hope to go and what the future holds for the company. 

Smith said SCDT is very diverse and that she looks to find the best dancers she can get. She values each dancer’s  professional artistic freedom rather than having all over her dancers look the same in both appearance and dance style.

SCDT’s work emphasizes community both within company and the surrounding area. The company aims to build relationships and uplift one another.

“We do work locally and internationally and I think it’s kind of the same thing,” Smith said. “We worked in different countries, and yes, we go there to dance, but we really go to build community with people and to get to know people and spend time with them and to just bring light wherever we go.” 

SCDT brought 12 dancers to perform at GVSU on Monday, Nov. 7. The performance consisted of one contemporary ballet piece, one contemporary piece and two jazz pieces.

“The company had not only an incredible performance, but a very versatile one as well,” said senior dance major Megan Vernier. 

Additionally, Smith taught six different classes during her time at GVSU including ballet, modern and choreography. Smith also held her company auditions on Friday, and approximately 50 dance students auditioned. 

The GVSU dance curriculum coordinator, professor and event coordinator Carrie Brueck Morris wanted to bring Smith in to work with students and chose to reach out to Smith after attending a concert in which SCDT performed. Smith accepted the invitation to come to GVSU almost immediately.

I think it’s important for our dancers to see professional companies and really consider both what it takes to be at that caliber and also the opportunities that are out there in the professional concert dance world,” Morris said.

Morris said that Smith brought new energy to the classroom. She emphasized that this offered a “refreshing” change of pace for students.

“Kia’s class was incredibly fast-paced and kept us moving the whole time,” Vernier said. “Class was a breath of fresh air and included some things I have never done or have not done in a while.” 

Junior dance major Hannah Kunkel was in four of the six classes Smith taught. She particularly praised Smith in her choreography class, where she taught students how to create a nearly-full dance work in about an hour. 

“It was amazing to see how quickly she was able to work, and to see a somewhat finished product in the same chunk of time,” Kunkel said.

Kunkel was also given the opportunity to audition for SCDT and felt that the opportunity to audition for a professional company while still being in the comfort of the GVSU studios was an “incredible opportunity.”

Smith also said that she enjoyed her time working with the GVSU students stating that it was a “positive experience” and that she would “definitely come back” if given the opportunity. 

For more information about Smith or SCDT visit their website or their Instagram @southchicagodancetheatre.