GREENSBORO – Duane Cyrus has spent much of his nearly 40-year career as a dancer and dance teacher.
Now he will bid farewell to the city where he has spent the last 17 years creating and teaching as a dance professor at UNCG.
Cyrus goes to Arizona to direct the School of Dance at the University of Arizona in Tucson. With 160 students, it is slightly larger than the UNCG program.
Before he leaves, Cyrus will employ his performing and visual artistic talents as a kind of living autobiography in a four-day, multidisciplinary performance art installation and community discussion.
He calls it “Time: Liminal”.
It is the focus of his two-week residency at the Stephen D. Hyers Theater, the 88-seat venue at the downtown Greensboro Cultural Center at 200 N. Davie St.
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“I wanted to share what feels to me like a love letter to Greensboro and North Carolina for some amazing experiences, incredible growth and lasting relationships,” Cyrus said.
He also wants to show his appreciation for UNCG, where he learned and grew while teaching and mentoring others.
Don’t expect four nights of dance concerts.
“I would appreciate the grace of the audience to realize that at 56 I shouldn’t be rolling on the floor,” Cyrus said.
He will feature past photos and videos from his dance career, as well as his own visual art and that of others. Cyrus will act as a kind of drama teacher, using his movement, voice and acting skills.
Through this he will examine issues of age, race and gender as he has observed them.
“It’s about understanding our position in the present moment, our connection to history and how we can make a difference in the future — in terms of the performing arts,” Cyrus said.
The four sessions will take place on July 29th and 30th and August 5th and 6th.
The free sessions allow the public to learn more about and learn about how artists and scientists work and contribute to society, and the legacies they create and leave behind.
“My hope is to share some of the things that the Greensboro audience may not have seen from me on a regular basis,” Cyrus said.
Many have probably seen his dancing talent.
The now 56-year-old danced in the original London cast of The Lion King in 1999 and 2000, toured with the musical Carousel and performed with the famous Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and the Martha Graham Dance Company.
He has taught and choreographed in the United States and abroad.
He has produced and curated film and photography since co-authoring Vital Grace: The Black Male Dancer in 1999.
He joined UNCG’s dance department in 2005 with a bachelor’s degree from the Juilliard School and a recent master’s degree from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
He founded the dance company Cyrus Art Production.
Recently, in addition to his professorship, he has directed Theater of Movement, a performing and visual arts collective that explores Black American and Afro-Caribbean identities through its work.
His honors include the 2021 NC Dance Festival Jan Van Dyke Legacy Award.
But Cyrus has also created visual art, curated art exhibitions, studied acting, and practiced his singing work.
Although age now prevents him from performing certain dance moves, “I continue to find ways to be present as a performer,” Cyrus said.
Cyrus is one of 10 artists selected for this year’s residency at Hyers.
Creative Greensboro, the city’s Department of Arts and Culture, directs the program. It offers residencies of up to six weeks for dance, theater, music, film and poetry projects directed by Guilford County-based creative individuals and organizations.
The artists receive rent-free access to rehearsals and performances as well as support with materials, equipment and the marketing of residency activities.
Cyrus had already received the residency before the job offer from the University of Arizona arrived.
He shortened his stay from four weeks to two.
But he didn’t change his residency theme. He had thought about it for years.
“Dance is fleeting,” he said. “Art itself is fleeting. After years of performing, I kept asking the question, ‘Where is the proof of what I did?’”
Although some dancers like Mikhail Baryshnikov and Misty Copeland get attention, tens of thousands of dancers don’t, Cyrus said.
Reflecting on his own life in dance, he would like to bring more recognition to dancers in general.
“What we celebrate in dance is not the dancer,” he added. “We celebrate the choreographer, the controller of the movement… I wish our culture celebrated the dancers more.”
“Time: Liminal” will be divided into four sessions of approximately 90 minutes each.
You will follow the format of his previous Evening with the Creative Class sessions. In it, artists from the fields of dance, theater, music, visual arts and spoken word spoke about their process and shared examples of their work.
The audience has time to look at the displays. Presentations or performances follow, then discussions and engagement.
Each night he asks a question about the process of the work, acknowledging the legacy and using the voice.
He has a goal for Time: Liminal. “I want to see this work in a museum, a gallery—the performance and the visual arts,” Cyrus said.
Although Time: Liminal is a one-man show, fellow artists helped out.
Actress Cassandra Lowe Williams acts as a dramaturge, an expert for the study of plays, musicals or operas.
Choreographer Billy James Hawkains III, who studied with Cyrus at UNCG.
Moore Media Works’ Mandy Moore and Jurne Smith work with Cyrus on administration. Smith will also perform on August 5 with The Resistance Project, a collective of African-American women artists.
Steven Cozart will create an art exhibition from his sketches of Cyrus’ work. Hassan Pitts provides a video. Film artist Robbin Ka and photographer Devin Newkirk will also be featured.
“No dance takes place without a team of people,” he said. “I have a whole team of people behind me.”
Cyrus plans to keep his contacts in Greensboro. Here he keeps his house.
Theater of Movement will remain a North Carolina based collective. The arts education program is offered through Guilford County Schools in the fall. Cyrus will remain on his executive team but will not be solely responsible.
Cyrus sees his work-in-progress as a bridge.
“This residency is a point in the evolution of the work,” he said. “So that gives me something to take with me to Arizona.
“It allows me to reflect on what was before embarking on what is to come,” he said.
Contact Dawn DeCwikiel-Kane at
336-373-5204 and follow
@dawndkaneNR on Twitter.