As a final celebration of Love Your Body Week, Gonzaga University Dance Program and the School of Leadership Studies welcomed Julianne Hough, dancer, singer, actress, producer, Emmy Award-winner and founder of KINRGY, on Friday. Held through Youtube livestream, the event was a fundraiser for the Dance for Parkinson's program. 

Suzanne Ostersmith, associate professor and director of GU Dance Program, gave an opening welcome, and the night began with a 20 minute KINRGY class. 

Created by Hough, KINRGY embodies the whole-self experience through dance, breathing, meditation and awareness. Unlike other forms of movement that focus on perfection, KINRGY encourages expression of the soul. 

During the class, participants were encouraged to express themselves through movement, meditation and imagination. The KINRGY experience interchanges segments of deep sways, energetic arm movements and empowering drum music, and moments of pause, self-reflection and calming meditation. 

A portion of the class was narrated with an island setting, to further enhance KINRGY imagination. Participants were encouraged to visualize the surrounding environment, and take note of the feeling of the tropical breeze and the smell and taste of the salt in the air. To pair with KINRGY movement and meditation, breathing practices were encouraged throughout the class. 

After the KINRGY class and a brief intermission, Ostersmith welcomed Hough for a final meditation. Viewers were guided to activate all energy —uncertainties, fears, heartbreak and blessings — and express them outward into the world. 

“This is where we are going to activate the element of earth and connect our senses,” Hough said. “Imagine dropping all thoughts in your head and allowing your body to just take over.”

Hough reminded students to recognize their heart and how they physically feel during the meditation. 

“As you feel all the elements, the earth beneath your feet, the fire raging through your body, the water of support, the air and sunlight pouring into you, we are nature by nature and it’s our greatest teacher,” Hough said. 

After Hough’s meditation, the Human Rights Student Dance Company performed an excerpt from “Pay the Price,” a piece they plan to perform this summer at the Gonzaga University School of Law Human Rights Conference. This year, the conference will focus on Black Lives Matter, as a global movement. 

The dancers were accompanied by music professor and director of the Gonzaga Symphony Orchestra and Chamber String Ensemble, Kevin Hekmatpanah on the cello. Hekmatpanah played “Perpetual Motion” by Black composer Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson.

Ostersmith said “Pay the Price” is a collaboration between her eight dancers, Hekmatpanah and professional dance artist and choreographer Noelle Price. Together, they have been actively self-educating and reflecting on institutionalized racism, oppression and white supremacy, to transform activism into dance. 

“One movement you’ll see in the work is a marching pivot,” Ostersmith said. “My instinct was to make it big and aggressive considering the subject matter. But Noelle helped us to understand that what she wanted was more subtle, because racism can also be very subtle.”

After the segment performance of “Pay The Price,” Hough gave performance feedback and asked the dancers how it personally felt performing the piece. She said she appreciated the performers for their willingness to explore challenging subject matters. 

“This is where transformation happens and real change happens,” Hough said. “So, thank you for using art to make real change.”

The event closed with a Q&A session with Hough, where students asked about her take on cura personalis, what she has personally gained from dance, her thoughts on body inclusivity and for advice in seeking a career in dance. 

“I’m a little overwhelmed, to be honest,” Hough said. “It’s not every day that I get to sit here and participate in something that I am really passionate about. There is so much love, attention and intention that has been put into this.”

Natalie Rieth is an arts & entertainment editor. Follow her on Twitter: @natalie_rieth.

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