Yunek Family Gift Garners “Double Exposure” for Kennesaw State’s Department of Dance

KENNESAW, Ga. | Aug 26, 2021

Generous donation supports choreographic residency and two world premieres at KSU Dance

 image of two dancers blurring on stage
Omar Collier and Tori Hammond on the stage of the Marietta Dance Theater

When Jay and Debra Yunek decided to honor their late uncle, Glenn Conner, and his partner and choreographer Eleo Pomare, with a generous gift to Kennesaw State University’s (KSU) Department of Dance, they could not have known the impact the gift would make, not only on emerging choreographers, but also KSU students. 

The Pomare-Connor Memorial Endowed Fund for Dance now funds the Eleo Pomare-Glenn Conner Choreographic Residency Endowment, which brings two nationally curated choreographers to the Department of Dance each summer to create an original work. The annual KSU Choreographic Residency program honors the late benefactors who were luminaries of the dance world. 

Pomare, who passed away in 2008, was known for developing innovative choreography that deals with social inequality and injustice. The funds promote and preserve Pomare’s legacy through the cultivation of new choreographic voices in the KSU Choreographic Residency program. 

Those new choreographic voices were delayed by a full year, due to COVID-19, but the two selected choreographers finally made the trip this past summer. Annalee Traylor and Omar Román de Jesus, both acclaimed choreographers, spent four weeks with students and alumni at KSU Dance. They created two new world premieres in “Double Exposure,”  performed August 27-28 at the Marietta Dance Theater. Each year, the performance will be named "Double Exposure," signifying the work of the two chosen choreographers. 

The works produced this summer for “Double Exposure,” include “Muerte Cotidiano” by Omar Román de Jesús and “the B side” by Annalee Traylor. 

The emerging choreographers were able to develop their unique voices during the residency, as the Endowment provided an honorarium to support housing, travel and living expenses, as well as a budget to produce their original choreographic works. Competition for the two spots was fierce, with only two selected from 52 well-qualified applicants. 

A screening committee of university and community professionals annually reviews the work of emerging choreographers from a national pool of applicants to select two individuals for the four-week KSU Choreographic Residency. This year’s deadline for the 2022 Residency is October 30, 2021

Ivan Pulinkala, then dean of the College of the Arts and now Interim Provost and Vice President of Academics for KSU, announced the major gift in 2019 at the opening of the student dance performance “Slang” at the KSU Dance Theater in Marietta. 

“We are grateful to the Yuneks for their generous donation. The KSU Choreographic Residency will help support the careers of emerging choreographers nationally and give our students a unique experience of collaborating with professionals in the field,” said Pulinkala. 

Combined with a previous gift received in 2018, the Yunek family has given almost $1 million to support dance at KSU. 

The Department of Dance at KSU is committed to the professional practice of dance, preparing students to be successful dancers, choreographers, teachers, scholars, theater technicians and arts administrators, by exposing them to professional artists. Internationally renowned companies are presented every year in the KSU Dance Theater as part of the ArtsKSU Professional Presenting Season. 

Started in 2005, the Department of Dance has flourished into the largest collegiate dance program in Georgia. Every year, over 100 students competitively audition to be KSU dance majors. KSU Dance has received regional and national attention at the American College Dance Association and been invited five times to perform at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. The Dance Theater on the Marietta Campus, the performance home of KSU Dance, is Atlanta’s first theater designed specifically for dance. 

--Kathie Beckett

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