Conservatory of Performing Arts

Dance professor conducts teaching residency in Uganda

Monday, September 06, 2010

Bentz instructs young students in American contemporary jazz dance

Dance Professor Doug Bentz with students he taught in Uganda in 2010.As one of the first artists selected for Teach and Tour Sojourners, dance Professor Doug Bentz blazed the trail for future dancers participating in the international program.

Bentz traveled to Kampala, Uganda this summer and conducted a two-week teaching residency in American contemporary jazz dance for dancers ranging from 17 to 25 years old.

“It was important for me as an instructor to be consistent in my demonstrations and to engage the students fully,” says Bentz, noting that the young people were not familiar with traditional Western dance techniques or vocabulary commonly used in the West. Local drummers provided music — and created the swinging beat — during his teaching sessions.

At Point Park Bentz teaches modern jazz dance, contemporary partnering, yoga and choreography. In Uganda a majority of his students were part of the country’s famed Ndere Troupe, which rehearses and performs at an arts center outside of Kampala, Uganda’s capital.

“We used a stage as our classroom,” says Bentz of his time teaching at the Ndere Centre. He also traveled extensively in the region and worked with students in other locations, including inside a concrete hut.

“I learned how to be flexible and roll with the punches!” he says of his trip, noting that some of the roads he traveled were unpaved and getting around the countryside took time, often hours.

Bentz praised all of his students for their diligence and openness to new ideas and training.

“Working together we proved that dance is indeed a universal language. We all had a lot of fun together,”he explains.

Bentz has danced professionally with the Ballet du Grand Theatre (Geneva, Switzerland) under the Artistic Direction of George Balanchine, the New Jersey Ballet, Luigi Jazz Dance Company (NYC), American Dance Machine (NYC), Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, American Dance Ensemble (Pittsburgh) and The Extension (Pittsburgh), a group he founded and led.

In Pittsburgh he has served as a guest artist with Dance Alloy Theatre, Pittsburgh Opera, Kevin Maloney Dance Theatre and Mary Miller Dance Company.

Photos courtesy of Doug Bentz

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