Department of Dance News

McCree O’Kelley Appointed Interim Chair of Department of Dance

Passionate educator, professional dancer and choreographer sees bright future

McCree O'KelleyKENNESAW, Ga. (July 1, 2019) –– McCree O’Kelley has been named Interim Chair of the Department of Dance at Kennesaw State University (KSU), effective July 1, 2019, by Dr. Ivan Pulinkala, dean of the College of the Arts. He said, “McCree’s experience as a talented leader, professional dancer and passionate educator will serve the Department of Dance well in the coming year. His commitment to the professional practices in dance will help us advance our partnerships and experiential training for students.” 

McCree said, “I believe KSU Dance is on the precipice of something big. I am honored and humbled to lead the Department at this exciting time. We have an incredible faculty and staff as well as the most amazing students and it is my goal to serve them well. It is truly astounding what Dean Pulinkala has been able to build in the Department of Dance over the past 14 years and I know he feels, as do I, that we are just getting started.” 

Training with Ann Brodie and the Carolina Ballet in Columbia, SC, McCree started his ballet training very early. Then, at the age of 16, he moved to New York City, accepting a full scholarship to the School of American Ballet. He furthered his dance training at the North Carolina School of the Arts studying with Duncan Noble, Melissa Hayden and Warren Conover.

His versatile career as a professional dancer included performing with the Atlanta Ballet, the Metropolitan Opera Ballet, and the Broadway National Tour of Cats as Mr. Mistoffelees. His vast repertoire includes Balanchine's Serenade (Waltz Man), Allegro Brillante, Rubies, Who Cares, Stars and Stripes, Western Symphony; Lila York's Celts (Green Man) and Gloria; Kevin O'Day's Viola Alone…(with one exception); Lynne Taylor-Corbett's Great Galloping Gottschalk (Men's Duet); Twyla Tharp's Deuce Coupe; Alan Hineline's Twist and Thresholds; Martha Graham's Diversion of Angels (Red Man); Val Caniparoli's Open Veins; Lew Christensen's Con Amore; Ben Stevenson's Cinderella and Alice in Wonderland; and Michael Pink's Dracula and Hunchback of Notre Dame.

As a choreographer, he has created works for Pacific Symphony, Alliance Theater, Trainees of Cincinnati Ballet, Ballet Spartanburg, Carolina Ballet, Ballet Southeast, Atlanta Dance Theater, Dance Converse, Theater Converse, Center Stage and Workshop Theater of South Carolina. In 2016 he was selected as one of four finalists for Ballet Arkansas’s choreographic competition, Visions. In 2016 and 2018 his works were selected to be performed in the New Voices Concert at the Alabama Dance Festival. In 2019 his work Pariah was selected for Off the EDGE and was performed by the KSU Dance Company at the Rialto Center for the Arts.

Previously McCree was an assistant professor of dance at Converse College in Spartanburg, SC, where he was the artistic director of Dance Converse. He has served on the faculty of the American Academy of Ballet, the University of South Carolina Conservatory of Dance, the Atlanta Ballet Summer Program, Ballet Spartanburg and the University of California, Irvine. He holds a BA in Dance from the University of South Carolina and an MFA in Dance from the University of CA, Irvine.  

  • The Department of Dance presented Radnocular, an open research forum to generate discussion, share new ideas, and contemplate important issues in dance-making on April 15th. Discussion Presenters included:

    Olivia Bryant, "The Other Side." A choreographic presentation and discussion regarding cultural tolerance, fear, and boundary making/breaking. Tolerance is a seemingly charged word but one that holds true the light of indignation. The process of change, illustrated by dancers moving through these interstitial borders, reveals a much broader commentary on social resiliency.  

    Mickel Peace, "Change Your World, Change Your Mind." This project examines dance movement therapy and its ability to improve interpersonal relationships with and between seniors who may be living with Alzheimer or dementia. Findings demonstrate that movement creates positive interconnections between mind, body, and soul, creating a better world for the individual.

    Jada Thomas, "Strange Fruit(s): An Analysis of the Representation of the Black Body in Dance." Discussion/presentation surrounding the complicated and problematic issues of Travis Wall's SYTYCD 2017 piece “Strange Fruit.” Wall’s choreographic depiction of Abel Meeropol's 1937 poem, made famous by Billie Holiday’s iconic performance, provoked many in the dance community. Discussions will explore approaches to sensitive and informed choreography in the future of dance.

    Bailey Harbaugh, "Your Changes Have Been Submitted." Choreographic presentation and commentary regarding the artistic treatment of "The Butterfly Effect." This effect, in chaos or complexity theory, suggests that a small change in one system can have an infinite number of effects on surrounding nonlinear systems. Dancers illustrate the interstitial change as movements migrate from body to body.

    Nicole Koontz, “AlReady-Whipped.” A dance film that embodies the old-age female persona of a non-essential decorative being and redefines the femme qualities of purity, sweetness, and fragility through the physical tool of whipped cream. A discussion will focus on the redefinitions of femme qualities and how these characters are either celebrated or ignored by popular culture.

  • KENNESAW, Ga. (March 25, 2019)— Kennesaw State University’s Department of Dance will be hosting the American College Dance Association (ACDA) Southeast Conference, March 28 through March 31. KSU Dance will be putting its own spin on the 2019 Southeast ACDA Conference for the 330 students participating from across the Southeast. For the first time, the conference will include scholarly presentations and dance on film. KSU Dance will also host BODYTRAFFIC, one of the world’s most stunning contemporary dance companies in a remarkable evening of works by Israeli choreographers.

    Image of dance from BODYTRAFFICThis year’s conference theme is the “Physicality of Change,” which honors the changing environment of today’s world of dance. Students will be treated to a performance by BODYTRAFFIC. Ivan Pulinkala, dean of the College of the Arts and professor of dance, said, “The students will experience a focus on movement invention, technical excellence and artistic depth; these characteristics take precedence over a work’s lighter or darker flavor.”

    Students involved in the conference can expect to dialogue with other talented peers and professionals in the industry. Harrison Long, chairman of the KSU Dance Department, says that “students will have the opportunity to participate in the regular menu of outstanding master classes, formal and informal concerts, and feedback sessions from leading artists.” For students and faculty members, the conference will be a wonderful way to have to their work examined for academic and professional development.

    ACDA is a strong supporter of diversity and celebrates various styles and traditions within the realm of dance. All institutions and individuals in the dance community were invited to participate in the conference whether they will be presenting or not.

    For those participating, the conference will be both intensive and immensely enjoyable. It is most importantly an opportunity for KSU dance students to showcase the incredible work ethic and talent within the department.  Long says, “It’s going to be a lot of fun to share some of the wonderful things we experience here every day at KSU.”

    Learn more about the American College Dance Association (ACDA) Southeast Conference. 

    – Tobhiyah Emiohe

    Photo by Rory Doyle, courtesy of BODYTRAFFIC

  • KENNESAW, Ga. (Nov 30, 2018) — Department of Dance production manager David Tatu was named this year’s Distinguished Staff Award winner Thursday at the Kennesaw State University Foundation’s annual Faculty and Staff Award ceremony. Tatu, along with five other staff members and one department, were formally recognized by President Pamela Whitten and acting KSU Foundation Chair Trenton Turk for their commitment to excellence.

    The ceremony is held each year to celebrate those who make outstanding contributions to the institution and demonstrate reliability, productivity and strong leadership qualities. This year, more than $23,000 was awarded to staff recipients, with Tatu taking top honors.

    “It is with immense pride that I have the opportunity to acknowledge these individuals for their outstanding contributions to Kennesaw State,” Whitten said. “Each of the recipients has demonstrated great dedication to making this institution world class, often doing so behind the scenes and far from the spotlight. Through their efforts, we are able to help our students realize their full potential.”

    Tatu, who also serves as the resident lighting designer and part-time instructor in the Department of Dance, joined KSU in August 2012 after a 15-year stint with the Atlanta Ballet. As production manager, he oversaw the renovation of the Dance Theater in the Joe Mack Wilson Student Center, helping it become one of the premier performance venues for professional dance in the region.

    An astute mentor, Tatu has been recognized in graduate surveys every year since his arrival as someone who is “making a difference in the life of a graduate,” according to his nominator. He developed a production course that prepares students for the profession and has resulted in numerous internships and professional opportunities for students in a multitude of dance companies. Beyond the Kennesaw State campus, Tatu hosts community workshops on lighting design for dance to high school teachers and dance studio owners.

    “I am extremely humbled to receive this honor and to be in such good company,” Tatu said. “I am fortunate to pursue my passion at an institution such as this, and I’m grateful to have the unwavering support of my colleagues. I take great pride in mentoring our many talented students, and this award only pushes me to achieve more.”

    – Travis Highfield

    Photos by David Caselli

  • Contemporary performance features original choreography and music.

    MARIETTA, Ga. (Nov. 19, 2018) –– Kennesaw State University’s Department of Dance will present “Pariah” on Nov. 30-Dec. 1 at 8:00 p.m. at the Dance Theater on the Marietta campus.

    KSU Dance Company presents “Pariah” Web Photo-1

    “Pariah” showcases innovative contemporary choreography by KSU Dance professors McCree O’Kelley, Andrea Knowlton, and Lisa Lock, as well as artist-in-residence Sean Nguyen-Hilton. The production includes an original score by James Waterman, music underscoring by Paul Stevens, and dancers from the KSU Dance Company.

    The KSU Dance Company, a pre-professional dance company, performs not only on campus, but also regionally and nationally. Students who major or minor in dance have the opportunity to audition at the beginning of each semester to be a part of the company. Their mission is to bring concert dance to the community.

    “I wanted to explore what it means to be an outcast,” said O’Kelley, assistant dance professor and choreographer of the title piece, in explaining what “Pariah” means to him. “I also wanted to explore the idea of ‘in order for me to be good, you need to be bad,’ or, ‘in order for me to win, I need for you to lose,’ and how that affects both the outcasts as well as the people who are doing the ostracizing.”

    KSU Dance Company presents “Pariah” Web Photo-1

    Assistant Dance Professor Lisa Lock, who choreographed “Walls” for the production, said, “I find that walls have a lot of connotations; they can be metaphors for several things in our lives. They can represent safety, or they can represent obstacles, or (they can represent) what can be a pure blank service to project your imagination.”

    The KSU Dance Company is one of the few companies in the history of the American College Dance Association to have five national invitations to perform at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. The dance program began at KSU in 2005 and has flourished into the largest collegiate dance program in Georgia. The Dance Theater on the Marietta campus, the performance home of KSU Dance, opened last year and is Atlanta’s first theater designed specifically for dance.


    A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers more than 150 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 35,000 students. With 13 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia and the third-largest university in the state. The university's vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the region and from 92 countries across the globe. A Carnegie-designated doctoral institution, it is one of the 50 largest public institutions in the country. For more information, visit

    For media inquiries or images: Kathie Beckett, Director of Marketing and Communications

  • By Gillian Anne Renault (Oct. 9, 2018)

    Inspiration can come from the strangest sources, and for Mauro Astolfi, it came from a dance rehearsal in an Italian park under a full moon.

    Mauro Astolfi - Astolfi founded Spellbound Contemporary Ballet Astolfi founded Spellbound Contemporary Ballet in Italy in 1994 and has forged a highly acclaimed company that puts a premium on classical movement set to modern esthetics. Spellbound makes its Atlanta debut at Kennesaw State University’s Dance Theater on October 12 and 13 with a performance of their original piece Full Moon.

    The creation of Full Moon came after Astolfi read articles about how the moon can affect human behavior. “That was the starting point,” he said recently by phone from his studio in Rome.

    For several nights, he took his dancers to a park in Rome to improvise under a full moon. “We did a lot of experimenting and monitored our perceptions and emotional states,” he said. “We discovered we had more adrenaline — we didn’t feel tiredness or pain. For me, dancing under the full moon was like dancing with a power pack attached to my body.”

    Astolfi said he hopes the ballet recreates this feeling for audiences. “Try to imagine you are under the full moon, even if you are just watching the dance,” he said. “The full moon is a ‘reawakening’ of our intuition, the feeling you get ‘in your bones’ that what is happening is something important, when we understand what we need to let go of.”

    Read More >

  • KENNESAW, Ga. (Sept. 27, 2018)

    Kennesaw State University Department of Dance will present the internationally acclaimed Spellbound Contemporary Ballet from Rome, Italy on October 12-13 at the Dance Theater on the Marietta campus. The internationally acclaimed company will debut a U.S. premiere, “Full Moon,” by Mauro Astolfi.

    A Spellbound production with the contribution of the Italian Ministry for Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism, “Full Moon” is directed and choreographed by Astolfi. He writes, “The full moon is a ‘reawakening’ of our intuition, the feeling you get ‘in your bones’ that what is happening is something important, when we understand what we need to let go of, so our Moon can become eternal.”

    Astolfi’s choreographic vision is to continually develop works that equally embody pure gestural expressiveness, structured by classical technique and training. Poetry and precision are at the core of the success of his works. After a long residency in America, he established the Spellbound Contemporary Ballet in 1994, a company which he runs together with Valentina Marini.

    Today, the company acts as an inspiration for many young and emerging choreographers and is currently one of the leaders in the international scene, having combined Astolfi’s personal portfolio with the technical excellence of its dancers to create a high-profile model that is strongly focused on the quality of productions.

    Ivan Pulinkala, Interim Dean of the College of the Arts and founder of the Department of Dance, said, “We are thrilled to host Spellbound Contemporary Ballet. The educational experience of our students will be greatly impacted by their visit, and I believe the community will thoroughly enjoy the performance.”

    The dance program began at KSU in 2005 and has flourished into the largest collegiate dance program in Georgia. The Dance Theater on the Marietta campus, the performance home of KSU Dance, opened last year and is Atlanta’s first theater designed specifically for dance. To buy tickets, visit

    For media inquiries or images: Kathie Beckett, Director of Marketing and Communications 470-578-3417 or

  • KENNESAW, Ga. (Sept. 20, 2018)

    Kennesaw State University announced Thursday it has received a $336,000 donation to the Department of Dance in the College of the Arts.

    The gift from Jay and Debra Yunek, the Pomare-Conner Memorial Endowed Fund for Dance, honors their late uncle, Glenn Conner, and his partner and dance choreographer Eleo Pomare. The funds will be used to promote or preserve Pomare’s legacy through the study and performance of his artistic works in the field of dance.

    Pomare, who passed away in 2008, was known for developing innovative choreography that speaks to social inequality and injustice, according to Jay Yunek.

    “The legacy that my uncle, Glenn Conner, would want is that his contribution ensures educational opportunities for KSU Dance students who are economically challenged and are interested in advancing the social concerns reflected in the works of his life partner, Eleo Pomare,” Jay Yunek said.

    Jay Yunek with two dance students and President Whitten of Kennesaw State

    “We are thrilled that KSU was selected to be the recipient of the Pomare-Conner fund, and we are so thankful for the support of our Department of Dance by the Yunek family,” said President Pamela Whitten in her first donor ceremony since becoming KSU’s president in July. “The innovative work of Glenn and Eleo will be continued for generations to come through our students.”

    Ivan Pulinkala, Interim Dean of the College of the Arts and previous chair of the Department of Dance, said, “We are grateful to Debra and Jay Yunek for this generous gift that will artistically and academically support gifted dancers in the College of the Arts at KSU. The educational experience of our students will also be greatly impacted by the annual guest artist residencies that this gift will provide.”

    The dance program began at KSU in 2005 and has flourished into the largest collegiate dance program in Georgia. The Dance Theater on the Marietta Campus, the performance home of KSU Dance, opened last year and is Atlanta’s first theater designed specifically for dance.

    Photo by David Caselli

  • 2018 COTA DANCE_ Julia Blair 1
    KENNESAW, Ga. (Jul 9, 2018) — A big No. 3 placard pinned to the front of her leotard, Julia Blair danced her heart out during the two-hour audition for the College of the Arts Department of Dance. She challenged the odds to convince the faculty to let her follow her dream of transferring to Kennesaw State as a dance major.

    Graded on a 1-10 scale for how well they performed ballet and modern dance combinations, more than 100 male and female dancers auditioned to enter the program this fall semester. A little more than three dozen, including Blair, would make the final cut. The Department of Dance has over 100 majors annually.

    “I fell once during the artistic dance portion of the audition, but I got up and kept going,” the athletic 19-year-old said. “It was intense, because they would call some of us back for more. It was a real intense workout.”

    Dance has been a big part of Blair’s life ever since middle school, but she put her dream of one day dancing at Disney’s Magic Kingdom on hold after graduating from Suwanee’s Peachtree Ridge High School in 2017. Her parents had just adopted two children from China, and she wanted to stay close to home to help with their care.

    The Duluth resident enrolled at nearby Gwinnett Technical College, where she studied environmental horticulture with a different creative goal in mind.

    “While I was studying at Gwinnett Tech, I planned on becoming a florist because I adore nature and flowers,” Blair said. “I had worked at a nursery while in high school, and I loved playing in the dirt.”

    2018 COTA Dance Julia_Blair 2Dance would become something she would pursue as a part-time job, she decided, teaching young children at the Buford School of Ballet in Gwinnett County.

    “It seemed like a dream to me to get paid for doing something I love so much,” said Blair who has taught at the school for the past year. “The classes range from an hour to an hour and a half for the older dancers,” she said. “We stretch and warm up, sometimes we do a mini barre, and then learn or review choreography.”

    Fate intervened, however, when a co-worker who had graduated from Kennesaw State’s dance program, noticed her talent and suggested she consider transferring there.

    “I did not even have Kennesaw State on my radar, but my good friend and coworker, Megan Harris (Dance, ’16), had graduated from the dance program at KSU and encouraged me to check it out,” she said.

    Harris could see how much Blair enjoyed dance and didn’t hesitate to offer some college advice.

    “KSU holds my heart in so many ways that I always encourage people to at least check out KSU before making their final decision,” said Harris, who was president and stage manager of the KSU Dance Company her senior year. “I also believe that KSU has the best and most diverse dance program in the state.”

    Regionally and nationally accomplished faculty and guest artists in the College of the Arts provide students with a high standard of education in state-of-the-art dance facilities at both the Kennesaw and Marietta campuses.

    In addition, the KSU Dance Company is one of the few companies in the history of the American College Dance Festival to have four successive national invitations to perform at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

    This distinction, along with eight regional gala selections, rank Kennesaw State’s Department of Dance as a leading dance program among peer institutions in Georgia, Alabama, Florida, South Carolina and Tennessee.

    “One of my best memories of the Dance Department was attending the Dance Festival my freshman year and getting to take classes from different professors from other universities,” Harris said. She wanted Blair to have the opportunity to explore college-level dance if she could pass the rigorous audition process.

    Blair said, “I had not even realized there was such a well-developed dance program in Georgia, and one that I could be involved in. I have always loved dance but majoring in it and having a full-time career in it did not seem possible until I found KSU. Now, I will be furthering my education and increasing my knowledge of dance by earning my degree at KSU.”

    Last fall, some 2,671 students transferred to Kennesaw State, and similar numbers are expected when the numbers are tallied this fall. Of those, only 41 students came from Gwinnett Tech.

    2018 COTA Dance Julia Blair 3

    Blair is excited to begin her new journey and has already started planning her activities and courses for the fall semester.

    “I will be living with other first-year students in University Village on campus, so I’m looking forward to getting involved in such campus life activities as Reformed University Fellowship, intramural sports and KSU’s swing dancing club,” she said. “I am also looking forward to taking dance classes in ‘body conditioning and somatics’ and ‘dance pedagogy’ that will train me to be the best dance instructor I can be.”

    Blair, who will be one of about 110 dance majors, has high hopes for the future and the doors that could open to her with a degree in Dance.

    “My dream after graduation would be to perform for a few years, possibly at Disney World. Eventually, I want to return to teaching because I want to share my art with the next generation.”

    A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers more than 150 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 35,000 students. With 13 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia and the third-largest university in the state. The university's vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the region and from 92 countries across the globe. A Carnegie-designated doctoral institution, it is one of the 50 largest public institutions in the country. For more information, visit

    — Robert S. Godlewski

    Photos by Lauren Kress

  • Photo of Dancers - Italy part of KSU Dance Theater season

    Alone in darkness, save a vertical sliver of light, a dark-suited man moves fitfully, hunched forward, his arms held close. He whips them around and whirls to the floor, as an ominous melody hovers like a drone over deep, insistent drumbeats. They strike at his very essence, like a giant mechanized force trying to beat the humanity out of him.

    The solo is part of “Dust,” choreographed by Hofesh Shechter, whose raw, visceral style of choreography lives in company repertoires ranging from the Israeli artist’s Brighton-based troupe to England’s Royal Ballet to the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Shechter’s is one of several nationally and internationally recognized voices in contemporary dance that will appear in a new performance season at Kennesaw State University’s Dance Theater in Marietta.

    The KSU Dance Theater Board plans to announce the series on Sunday.

    As part of the series, BodyTraffic, a Los Angeles-based dance repertory company, will perform “Dust” next March alongside two more Atlanta premieres by Israeli choreographers. Other season highlights include performances by Spellbound Contemporary Ballet from Rome, as well as Atlanta Ballet 2, KSU Dance Company and Terminus Modern Ballet Theatre. Also as part of the season, KSU is partnering with Georgia State University’s Rialto to present the fourth “Off the Edge” dance festival, which will announce additional performing groups this summer.

    When the renovated theater opened last spring, KSU dance department chair Ivan Pulinkala envisioned the dance-dedicated venue not only for KSU’s fast-growing dance program, but also for local artists to show work. Pulinkala also saw the theater’s potential for presenting artists from outside of Atlanta. And since Atlanta Ballet is producing more classical and classically based ballets, KSU’s new contemporary dance series helps fill an open niche in the arts community.

    The Dance Theater helped embolden five former Atlanta Ballet dancers to form Terminus, which performed there last month, following after KSU Dance Company and the Georgia Ballet. Last fall, Israel’s Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company was the first internationally acclaimed troupe to grace the theater’s permanently installed sprung Marley floor.

    This coming fall, the theater will host Spellbound Contemporary Ballet in the U.S. premiere of “Full Moon,” choreographed by the company’s founding director, Mauro Astolfi. The work draws inspiration from notions that the moon, with its gravitational pull on tides as well as body fluids, may influence the human body and spirit as well as behavior.

    In a rehearsal video, dancers move with urgency and abandon. With deep human expression, they enfold one another, grasping, embracing and reaching out. It’s a compelling style and approach that Pulinkala hopes will inspire growth in Atlanta’s increasingly energized dance scene.

    “I think this will add another dimension,” Pulinkala said. “It brings another voice into the marketplace of ideas and art-making in Atlanta.”

  • KSU Dance Company invited to perform at the KENNEDY CENTER
    By Kathie Beckett

    The Department of Dance at KSU has been selected among dance programs across the Southeast to perform at the National American College Dance Festival held biennially at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC. This regional selection, marks the 5th time in a short 12-year history that the KSU Department of Dance has received this distinction, making it one of the most highly acclaimed dance programs in the Southeast U.S.

    Prof. Lisa K.Lock’s choreographic work “Suspended Vision” was one of two works selected from among 44 works presented for adjudication at the Southeast regional conference held March 2-5, 2018 at Coker College.  Both works will be performed at the national festival June 6-9, 2018 at the Kennedy Center, alongside a celebrated group of choreographic works selected from across the country. National adjudicators praised Lock’s work as having a “refined sense of non-linear drama, daring theatrical design, striking costuming and seamless excellence...” With lighting and scenic design by David Tatu, and costume design by Jill Peterson, “Suspended Vision” uses a cast of eight dancers to present technically virtuosic movement that is thrilling to watch and exhilarating to perform.

    Lock joined the faculty at KSU in 2014 as a part-time professor, and was hired as an Assistant Professor of Dance in 2016. She holds M.F.A. and B.F.A. degrees in dance from the California Institute of the Arts and is originally native to Switzerland. Lock has a celebrated professional performance career with companies such as La Danserie (LA), the Cleveland Opera, and Ohio Dance Theater. Her recent dance film “My Other Self” was presented at the Summe in Switzerland.

    The American College Dance Association is the most prestigious venue for collegiate dance in the country, with a mission to “honor multiple approaches to scholarly and creative research activity” and “promote excellence in choreography and/or performance…” Regional conferences are held annually across the U.S., and every two years, works are selected from regional conferences to be presented at the national festival held at the Kennedy Center. KSU founding director, Dr. Ivan Pulinkala holds the national record of being the only choreographer in the over 40-year history of the American College Dance Festival to have choreographic work invited to the Kennedy Center in three successive national years (2008, 2010, 2012.)

    This national recognition comes at a fortuitous time for the Department of Dance as it prepares to host the Southeast Regional American College Dance Conference in 2019 at Kennesaw State University. For more information about the Department of Dance at KSU, visit

    Prof. Lisa K.Lock's choreographic work "Suspended Vision" Photo Gallery

  • Dance Class 1107 Group PhotoDance Class 1107: Explores Dance Around the World 
    By Kathie Beckett

    Natalie Berry’s Dance 1107 classIf you are lucky enough to nab a spot in Natalie Berry’s Dance 1107 class, you may not have any idea that you will be taking a tour of dance around the world and making international connections at the same time.

    The 1107 dance class at Kennesaw State examines the role of arts in society, and provides an in-depth study of selected dance events, resulting in heightened perceptual abilities through class experiences and field visits.

    Berry explains, “In the first half of the course, we study cultures: we look at dance, examine what dance is, and then we look at different countries and their take on dance. For example, we look at Japan, Brazil, and America. We look at the African aesthetic, which is very large so we have to pare it down; we study an author who uses seven African aesthetics.”

    After the world tour of dance, the students study concert dance in the second half of the course. “We compare those cultural dances that we have studied and how they have influenced concert dance and how concert dance has been changed by world events. So, for example, we are talking about romantic ballet which was the first half of the 1800’s. We look at things like the French Revolution, the American Revolution, the Haitian Revolution, and the Industrial Revolution. We look at how those global ideas really affected the development, both theatrically and technically, of the art form. I feel like it is a great way to learn about history without learning about history,” Berry explains.

    Berry’s students agree. A sophomore in engineering, student Thaide Huichapa says, “It is actually kind of interesting how different parts of the world have the same ideas, even across Africa, Brazil, and Japan. Japan was enclosed in their own country but they had the same ideas as other countries, without any contact. That was really cool.”

    Lauren Jones, a freshman in exercise science with a minor in dance, says, “I’ve been able to look at dance in a different light, knowing the history behind certain movements, and the purpose behind the movements, from multiple parts of the world. Seeing that all come together into one is really cool; it becomes one art form, and that’s amazing.”

    International student Mbali Mamba, a nursing major from South Africa, will never forget the Dance 1107 class. She said, “It’s like a big explosion of cultural knowledge. I have a completely different perspective of the world and society and how we connect. For me, personally, I didn’t realize that dance was so deep. It’s fascinating because we, as humans, are so connected, and we don’t even realize it. For example, some dance styles here in America are very similar to dances in South Africa. People who have never seen each other anywhere in the world are doing the exact same thing.”

    Berry adds, “The class as a whole brought out this idea that cultures the world over are full of similarities. I thought that was a really great message. We don’t always have to be exactly the same. We don’t always have to agree, but we can find those connections. It makes you so much more willing to accept people.”


  • David J Tatu, Resident Lighting Designer for the Department of Dance, held a dance lighting lecture on December 6 for past and future choreographers and company directors attending the KSU Dance Festival. Tatu showed multiple options of lighting both the stage and the dancers using the KSU dance repertory plot. Topics in the free workshop included angles, color, and the creation of looks and cues. Tatu previously ran a similar workshop at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center. 

    Prior to joining KSU Department of Dance, he was the Director of Production and Lighting Director for Atlanta Ballet for over 15 years. A few of his original lighting design credits include:  Alice in Wonderland, Carmina Burana, Divertimento #15, Il Distratto, Intermezzo, Pastoral Dances, Rite of Spring, Troy Game, Coppelia, Prisma, La Bayadere Act II, Cinderella, Con Amore, Allegro Brilliante, Madame Butterfly, Nutcracker and he created the lighting for John McFall’s final work with Atlanta Ballet: Sleeping Beauty. He has also designed for Ohio Ballet, Cuyahoga Valley Youth Ballet, Nevada Opera, Gwinnett Ballet and Robert LaFosse’s Dancers from New York and he is the past Resident Lighting Designer for Dance Canvas.

    As the Production Stage Manager and assistant lighting designer with Ohio Ballet, he worked closely with Tony Award-winning lighting designer Thomas R. Skelton. During that time, he recreated Skelton’s work for two seasons at the Joyce and designed the lighting for Ohio Ballet’s In Full Swing, A Person and The Exiles.

    At KSU, David has created the lighting for a score of works. Some of his favorites: Rebuild, Alice, Winergy, Touchdown, Con Moto-Mosso, Derivative, Hyperkinetic and Table Manners 10.5. He has lit the Company at various festivals such as American Collage Dance Festival at the Kennedy Center and has managed production of various Department of Dance events around Atlanta. He was an integral part of the team working on the renovations to the KSU Marietta Dance Theater.

    Dance Lighting Lecture Photo Gallery

  • KSU Launches Theater With Kibbutz Dancers
    The company will usher in a new era of dance for metro Atlanta.

    By Marcia Caller Jaffe | September 26, 2017

    The dance department at Kennesaw State University will present Israel’s world-renowned Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company for one show at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 24, at the Dance Theater on KSU’s Marietta Campus (the former Southern Polytechnic).

    Choreographed by Kibbutz Contemporary Dance’s artistic director, Rami Be’er, “Horses in the Sky” premiered in 2016 at the Sydney Opera House. The work uses powerful physical vocabulary to juxtapose a surrealist sense of dreams and an impending apocalypse.

    Ivan Pulinkala, the founding director of Kennesaw State’s department of dance, who this time last year was working with the Israeli Consulate General and several arts organizations on the Exposed dance festival, saw “Horses in the Sky” in December in Israel and knew it would be the ideal work to launch a professional presenting season at the university’s new, state-of-the-art Dance Theater.

    The first professional dance company to grace the Dance Theater stage, Kibbutz will usher in a new era of dance for metro Atlanta as Kennesaw State introduces a professional series of internationally renowned dance companies.

    “Horses in the Sky” will be the debut show for the Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company in the Atlanta area.

    The Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company was founded in 1973 by Yehudit Arnon, who survived Auschwitz, then moved to Israel to establish Kibbutz Ga’aton in the Western Galilee.

    Today, Kibbutz Ga’aton is home to the Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company, known for its compelling movements, technically virtuosic performers and inventive artistic voice.

    Be’er, the company’s artist director, was born in 1957 to a family of Holocaust survivors. After his mandatory army service but while he continued to serve in the army reserve, he joined the Kibbutz Contemporary company as a dancer.

    He has continued the founding vision of the late Arnon and established the company’s International Dance Village as a magnet for dancers and creative artists from all over the world.

    “Horses in the Sky” will mark the first time the Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company is seen in Atlanta.

    The past five years, Pulinkala has established a strong presence for the Kennesaw State dance program in Israel, including an annual dance study-abroad session in Tel Aviv and a host of visiting Israeli artists, who have given Kennesaw dance students the experience of cutting-edge contemporary dance from one of its world centers.

    The Kennesaw State dance program received a Schusterman Visiting Artist Grant in 2016 to bring an Israeli artist to campus for four months.

    Photo by Eyal Hirsch

  • Listen to the NPR City Lights with Lois Reitzes interview Kennesaw professor Todd Wedge, choreographer Rifka Mayani and KSU vocal student Deondria West speak about their production of rarely-performed one-act opera by Gustav Holst called “Savitri.”

  • KSU Regional America nCollege Dance Festival

    The KSU Dance Company was extremely successful at the Regional American College Dance Festival held in Alabama, March 10-13, 2017, with both adjudicated works selected for the Gala Concert.

    Israeli Artist-in-Residence Ella Ben Aharon choreographed “Hyperselves” and dance major Will VanMeter choreographed “Double Helix,” two works presented by KSU Dance this year. “Hyperselves” was the only work out of 46 performed at the festival that received a standing ovation. This work also received the honor of closing the Gala Concert.

    This gala selection is extremely important to KSU’s historic record of success at ACDA, once again placing KSU Dance as a leading collegiate dance program not just in Georgia, but in the Southeast.

    A special thanks to the Schusterman Visiting Artist Program at the Israeli Institute and the Consulate of Israel in Atlanta for funding Ella Ben-Aharon’s residency at KSU Dance last year.  

    KSU Dance is scheduled to host the Southeast Regional American College Dance Association in 2019.

  • Dance Theater KSU Marietta

    The region’s first theater designed specifically for dance will open March 24-25, 2017 on Kennesaw State University’s Marietta campus. Housed in the Joe Mack Wilson Student Center, the theater on KSU’s Marietta campus is being transformed into an ideal venue for dance.

     With a seating capacity of 450, the Dance Theater is equipped with a permanently installed sprung Marley dance floor and state-of-the-art theatrical lighting and sound.  Inspired by the Joyce Theater in New York City, it will be the performance home for the KSU Dance Company and will also host student organizations and university functions. Further, it will serve as a rental performance venue for dance in the region.

    “Our new Dance Theater will help fill a void for choreographers and local dance companies by providing an affordable performance venue fully equipped for the presentation of concert dance,” said Dr. Patty Poulter, Dean of the College of the Arts.

    The venue will open to the public with the premiere of Metamorphosis, an original work choreographed by Ivan Pulinkala, founding director of the Department of Dance at KSU.  Metamorphosis evokes both the metaphorical transformation of people through the power of knowledge and education, as well as the physical transformation of the venue into a dance theater.

    The 45-minute work will feature 19 dancers from the KSU Dance Company. Set to an original instrumental score by KSU music major Eric Ramos, and an original choral score by Michael Engelhardt, Metamorphosis includes 60 singers from the KSU Chorus, conducted by Dr. Leslie Blackwell. Lighting design is by David Tatu, scenic design is by Ming Chen and visual design is by Rebecca Makus. To read more about the new Dance Theater and Metamorphosis, please click here.

    The Marietta Dance Theater Board has many ways for patrons to help support the new Dance Theater, including naming opportunities, sponsorships, and seat donations. Learn more at

    Images courtesy of architectural firm J.W. Robinson & Associates, Inc.

  • City Lights features Dr. Ivan Pulinkala

    Dr. Ivan Pulinkala and Department of Dance artist-in-residence Ella Ben-Aharon were featured on Lois Reitzes’ “City Lights” on WABE 90.1 FM on August 23, 2016. Listen to the interview here.

    A choreographer, Ben-Aharon has a particular interest in multidisciplinary collaboration with such fields as architecture and video. Her work has been presented in Israel, Europe, Brazil and the United States (Joyce SoHo; Danspace Project, New York; REDCAT, Los Angeles, et al). Ben-Aharon is on the faculty of the Jerusalem Academy of Dance and Music and has been a guest teacher at American universities as well. She will be at Kennesaw State University as a Schusterman Visiting Israeli Artist, through the Israeli Institute, until December 10, 2016.

  • Dance Production KSU

    Kennesaw State University’s Department of Dance is celebrating ten years of excellence, and part of that excellence lies within its dance production or stagecraft classes. Over the last three years, production manager and resident lighting designer, David Tatu, has taught dance students the sophisticated art of producing a dance show.

    “Even if a student is only interested in performing, the student learns firsthand what it takes to put on a show. They learn how lighting works, and how to position themselves to be in the light. And when someone says, ‘Heads up, line coming in,’ they know they better move,” said Tatu.

    Tatu’s role is to explain what happens in the production of a show and why it’s necessary. Student Mallory Brown has taken the class twice so far. “I think it is important for anyone who performs on stage to get an inside look at what happens behind the scenes. Both times that I took the course, I focused on lighting. This has changed the way I view dance performances; I now have a keener eye. Lighting is an art form within itself that goes hand-in-hand with dance,” said Brown.

    Tatu has 30 years of experience in dance production, beginning in high school and continuing through college. He got his first taste of teaching while working as the director of production and resident lighting designer for Atlanta Ballet.

    “I don’t know if it has to do with the discipline learned in their dance classes, but our students are very quick learners. I guess when you spend all those years in dance classes, you are trained to carefully listen and observe, and then you have to put what you’ve learned into practice.”

    “I can run shows almost as fast with our dance students as I can with a professional crew. When the dance production classes first started, I wasn’t sure how we would get everything done. Now, it’s no problem.”

    Ivan Pulinkala, chair of the Department of Dance, sees great curricular value in the development of the dance production area.

    “The experience students have in dance production at KSU distinguishes our program regionally, and ensures that KSU dance majors are equipped with skills that make them well-rounded practitioners and performers.”

    Today, KSU dance majors may be seen working across Atlanta in a variety of dance production roles. Internships and community partnerships ensure that dance majors have opportunities to practice their stagecraft at professional venues well before they graduate. These experiences distinguish KSU Dance as a leader in dance education in the region.
    To learn more, please visit

  • Thirteen KSU dance majors traveled to Israel this summer for seven days, studying Batsheva repertory, taking gaga technique classes, and visiting some of the most historic sites in the world. Ivan Pulinkala, chair of the Department of Dance, developed the two-week Maymester course with the goal of helping dance students understand how the political and religious history of Israel has shaped the development of some of the most influential contemporary dance in the world.

    According to KSU’s Vice-Provost and Chief International Officer, Lance Askildson, “This inaugural program in dance will serve as a catalyst for the development of other education abroad programs for KSU in Israel.” Though smaller than the size of New Jersey, Israel, known as the start-up nation, is home to the highest number of academics per capita in the world.

    Ambassador Judith Varnai -Shorer, Consul General of Israel to the Southeast said,

    “This study abroad in dance is an organic development of the growing relationship we have with Ivan Pulinkala and the Department of Dance at KSU, and one that we hope will result in the growth of other study abroad programs for Kennesaw State University in Israel.”

    Dance majors described the experience to be transformational. Working with some of the most celebrated dancers in the world and studying Batsheva repertory was inspirational beyond measure. The students were fortunate to be able to attend the world premiere of a new work by the Vertigo Dance Company. The students described the performance as sophisticated and unique, and many noted that it was a highlight of the trip. Learn more about study abroad programs at