Jeffry Denman and SUU Dance present “Resilience: The Donner Party”

Southern Utah University’s Dance Program has invited guest artist Jeffry Denman to perform “Resilience: The Donner Party” on Saturday, March 26, at 7:30 p.m. in the Eileen and Allen Anes Studio Theatre. The performance is free to the community and doors will open at 7:00 p.m. 

The performance is a workshop piece originally written and choreographed by Denman. It incorporates theatre and dance to retell the true story about a party of pioneers who found themselves stranded in the Sierra Nevada mountain range during the Manifest Destiny era. The performance featuring 20 SUU dance students and faculty hopes to convey the joy, heroism and tragedy of the Donner Party’s journey west. 

“Storytelling is art and all art holds a mirror up to humanity and says ‘this is who we are, the good, bad and everything in between,’” said Denman on his personal website. “Whether directing, choreographing or writing, I always do my best to honor and articulate what it means to be human as artfully as possible… where we are strong and especially where we are vulnerable.” 

Denman is SUU Dance’s first live guest artist since the COVID pandemic started. He has performed on various stages including Playwrights Horizons, Roundabout Theatre Company, Classic Stage Company, Signature Theatre, La Mirada, Cape Playhouse and Tuacahn Center for the Arts. He is also the artistic director of Denman Theatre & Dance Co

SUU Dance has been rehearsing with Denman all week to finetune the performance. 

“This process has been fulfilling in multiple ways and the opportunity to work with students and a colleague in a performance capacity has been an inspiration,” said Assistant Professor of Dance Nick Blaylock. “We’ve created a supportive and productive environment in rehearsals and Jeffry Denman and Brittany Martel have guided the cast through complex physical and metaphysical terrain with conviction.” 

“Resilience: The Donner Party” is the perfect way to end Founders Week and a chance to enjoy SUU Dance one last time this spring semester. 

“The ties to Utah history and the collective lineage of pioneering spirit has imbued a sense of reverence and grounding within the cast, allowing us all the reflection of our past and desired futures,” said Blaylock. “I am honored to be a part of this project and look forward to presenting this work with the incredible cast.” 

For more information, visit the Department of Theatre, Dance, and Arts Administration website

Story by: Addie Horsley
Photo courtesy of SUU Dance