Hesston-Bethel Performing Arts Series to open with St. Louis-based dance company

Big Muddy Dance Company promo photo

The Hesston-Bethel Performing Arts Series opens is 2016–17 season with St. Louis’ first professional contemporary jazz dance group, Big Muddy Dance Company.

Big Muddy comes to the Krehbiel Auditorium stage in Bethel College’s Luyken Fine Arts Center Nov. 11 at 7:30 p.m.

Big Muddy seeks to build a love of dance through fun, experiential and highly entertaining performances.

According to the group’s website, “By engaging both emerging and established choreographers, collaborating across the community through senior outreach and training future performers through our school and trainee program, we constantly strive to invigorate life through dance.”

Founding artistic director Paula David and founding board president James David founded St. Louis Dance Theatre, Inc., in 2010, with nine volunteer dancers and staff members.

Paula David was named one of St. Louis’ “movers and shakers” on ALIVE’s 2011 BUZZ list, and the company premiered in June 2011 at the Blanche M. Touhill Performing Arts Center to a sold-out house and standing ovation.

Since that time, the company has given more than 90 performances and commissioned more than 25 works for its repertoire. Now under the artistic direction of Brian Enos, Big Muddy employs 11 full-time dancers and presents three full theater productions each season to enthusiastic audiences.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch named Big Muddy “Best Local Dance Company,” as “Readers’ Choice” in 2013 and “Critics’ Choice” in 2014.

Big Muddy currently resides at the Marcelle Theater in Grand Center, St. Louis. The organization has developed into three major entities: Big Muddy Dance Company, which presents both major productions and community performances for fellow nonprofits; open classes, which offer instruction for adults as well as training for pre-professional dancers; and Senior Embrace, the company’s senior-citizen outreach program.

Big Muddy will be doing a free educational program and a master class during its visit to the area.

The free program for local schoolchildren is Nov. 11 at 1 p.m. in Krehbiel Auditorium.

The master class is Nov. 12 at the Bethel College Academy for Performing Arts, 400 South Main Street in Newton. There will be two concurrent sessions, Intermediate Contemporary Dance and Advanced Contemporary Dance, from 9:45-11 a.m., at a charge of $20 per student (checks made payable to Big Muddy Dance Company).

HBPA season tickets, as well as reserved seating and general admission tickets for The Big Muddy’s Nov. 11 performance, are available at hesstonbethel.org or by calling 620-327-8158. Single tickets are for sale at the Hesston College bookstore in Erb Hall or in Bethel College’s Thresher Shop in Schultz Student Center during regular business hours. Prices range from $12 to $20 with discounts available for students and senior citizens.

The rest of the 2016–17 HBPA lineup is the men’s a cappella ensemble Cantus, Dec. 3 at Hesston Mennonite Church on the Hesston College campus; South Africa’s a cappella men’s group Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Feb. 7 in Bethel College’s Memorial Hall; Montréal Guitare Trio, March 4 in Krehbiel Auditorium; and Sybarite5, a string quintet, April 20 at Hesston Mennonite Church.

The Hesston-Bethel Performing Arts series is funded in part by the cities of Hesston and North Newton, Excel Industries and Hustler Turf Equipment (Hesston), the Hesston Community Foundation, the North Newton Community Foundation, and an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.