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 past 17 years, creating and teaching as a dance teacher at UNCG.
Cyrus heads to Arizona, to run the University of Arizona School of Dance in Tucson. With 160 students, it is a bit larger than the UNCG program.
Prior to her departure, Cyrus will use her talents as a performer and visual artist in a four-night, multidisciplinary performance art installation and community discussion, like a kind of living autobiography.
He calls it “Time: Liminal”.
That’s the focus of his two-week residency at the Stephen D. Hyers Theatre, the 88-seat downtown Greensboro Cultural Center at 200 N. Davie St.
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“I wanted to share what feels like a love letter to Greensboro and North Carolina, for incredible experiences, incredible growth, and lasting relationships,” Cyrus said.
He also wants to show his appreciation for the UNCG, where he learned and grew while teaching and mentoring others.
Don’t expect four nights of dance concerts.
“I would appreciate the public’s grace to realize that at 56 I shouldn’t be rolling on the floor,” Cyrus said.
He will show past photos and videos from his dancing career, as well as his own visual art and that of others. Cyrus will perform as a type of theatrical docent using his movement, voice, and acting abilities.
Through this he will examine issues of age, race and gender as he observed them.
“It’s about understanding where we stand in the present moment, our connection to history, and how we can have an impact in the future – as far as the performing arts are concerned,” Cyrus said.
The four sessions will take place on July 29 and 30 and August 5 and 6.
The free sessions will allow the public to discover and learn more about how artists and scholars work and contribute to society and the legacy they create and leave behind.
“My hope is to share some of the things that Greensboro audiences may not have seen me do on a regular basis,” Cyrus said.
Many have probably seen his talent as a dancer.
Now 56, he danced in the original London cast of ‘The Lion King’ in 1999 and 2000, toured with the musical ‘Carousel’ and performed with the renowned 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-writing the 1999 book, “Vital Grace: The Black Male Dancer.”
He came to the dance department at UNCG in 2005 with a bachelor’s degree from the Juilliard School and a newly earned master’s degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
He founded the dance company Cyrus Art Production.
Recently, in addition to his role as a teacher, he directed Theater of Movement, a visual and performing arts collective that explores Black American and Afro-Caribbean identities in their works.
Among his accolades are the 2021 Jan Van Dyke Legacy Award from the NC Dance Festival.
But Cyrus also created visual arts, curated art exhibitions, studied acting, and practiced her voice work.
Although age now prevents her from performing certain dance moves, “I continue to find ways to be present as a performer,” Cyrus said.
Cyrus is one of the 10 artists chosen for this year’s residency at Hyers.
Creative Greensboro, the city’s arts and culture office, manages the program. It offers residencies of up to six weeks for dance, theatre, music, film and poetry projects led by creative individuals and organizations in Guilford County.
Artists are granted free access for rehearsals and performances and are also offered support with materials, equipment and the marketing of residency activities.
Cyrus had already secured residency before the job offer arrived from the University of Arizona.
He shortened his residency from four weeks to two.
But he did not change his theme of residence. He had thought about it for years.
“Dance is fleeting,” he says. “Art itself is ephemeral. After years of performing, I kept asking the question, ‘Where’s the proof of what I’ve done?’ »
Although a few dancers such as Mikhail Baryshnikov and Misty Copeland are getting attention, tens of thousands of dancers aren’t, Cyrus said.
As he reflects on his own life in dance, he wants to give more recognition to dancers in general.
“What we celebrate in dance is not the dancer,” he added. “We celebrate the choreographer, the motion controller…I wish our culture would celebrate dancers more.”
“Time: Liminal” will be split into four sessions of approximately 90 minutes each.
They will follow the format of its previous “Evening with the Creative Class” sessions. In these, artists from dance, theatre, music, visual arts and spoken word talked about their process and shared examples of their work.
The public will have time to watch the screens. Presentations or performances will follow, then discussions and exchanges.
Each evening, he will ask a question about the process of creating works, recognizing heritage, using the voice.
He has a goal for “Time: Liminal”. “I want to see this work in a museum, a gallery – performance and visual art,” Cyrus said.
Although “Time: Liminal” is a solo exhibition, other artists have helped.
Actress Cassandra Lowe Williams is a playwright, expert in the study of plays, musicals or operas.
Billy James Hawkains III, who studied with Cyrus at UNCG, is a choreographer.
Mandy Moore of Moore Media Works and Jurne Smith are working with Cyrus on administration. Smith will also perform on August 5 with The Resistance Project, a collective of African-American artists.
Steven Cozart will create an art exhibit from his sketches of Cyrus’ work. Hassan Pitts will provide the video. Other guests will be filmmaker Robbin Ka and photographer Devin Newkirk.
“No dance happens without a team of people,” he said. “There’s a whole team behind me.”
Cyrus plans to maintain his contacts in Greensboro. He will keep his house there.
Theater of Movement will remain a North Carolina collective. Its arts education program will be offered in the fall by Guilford County Schools. Cyrus will remain in his management team but not solely responsible.
Cyrus sees his ongoing work as a bridge.
“This residency is a point in the development of the work,” he said. “So that gives me something to carry to Arizona.
“It allows me to reflect on what has been, before moving on to what will be,” he said.
Contact Dawn DeCwikiel-Kane at
336-373-5204 and follow
@dawndkaneNR on Twitter.