Emory Dance Program presents world premiere of 'fence' by staibdance

Photo by Lori Teague

September 11, 2019

(Atlanta, GA) – The Emory Dance Program presents the world premiere of “fence,” choreographed by Emory Dance faculty member George Staib and performed by his Atlanta-based contemporary dance company, staibdance. Inspired by dramatic, life-changing events Staib encountered during his childhood in Iran, this timely piece is a journey into a messy world of power, history, and how “otherness” can either steal power or become its source. Staib’s intensely physical movement bonds with traditional Iranian dance to explore this unrest.

“fence” is made possible through funding from The New England Foundation for the Arts (NEFA) National Dance Production (NDP) Award. staibdance was selected from 148 applicants and is among 19 additional recipients of this prestigious recognition. staibdance is one of only two grant recipients from the Southeast and is the first from the state of Georgia to receive the NDP award.

“fence” is staibdance’s most collaborative effort to date. UK born and educated Ben Coleman will bring his globally recognized artistic talents as sound designer and composer. Costume design is led by former Atlanta Ballet costume designer Tamara Cobus. Emory faculty members Gregory Catellier and Sara W. Culpepper define “fence” through nuanced and evocative lighting and imposing set designs, respectively. The duo behind Atlanta’s Into Outof Studio weaves a sensory-based digital experience within the work. Through these rich and compelling collaborations, “fence” forces a dialogue around what takes or gives you power.  

fence opens October 3, 2019 at 7:30 p.m. and runs through October 6, 2019.  Performances during the run are as follows: October 3 – 5, 2019 at 7:30 p.m. and October 5 - 6, 2019 at 4:00 p.m. All showings will be presented in the Dance Studio, Schwartz Center for Performing Arts at 1700 N. Decatur Road, Atlanta, GA 30322. “fence” was made possible by the New England Foundation for the Arts’ National Dance Project, with lead funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Tickets are available through the Schwartz Center Box Office online at arts.emory.edu/boxoffice, in person, or by calling 404.727.5050 Monday – Friday, noon – 6 p.m.

The Schwartz Center for Performing Arts is committed to providing performances and facilities accessible to all. Accommodation requests should be made at least 24 hours in advance of the event to the box office at 404.727.5050, or by email at boxoffice@emory.edu



staibdance is an Atlanta-based contemporary dance company. Since its founding in 2007 by George Staib, the company has worked to boost the visibility and viability of contemporary dance in the Southeast through performances, workshops and educational programming. With the establishment of the staibdance Summer Intensive in Sorrento, Italy in 2010, the company furthered its mission to include cultural and international exchange. For more information on the company and upcoming projects, visit www.staibdance.com



Born in Tehran, Iran, George Staib is of Armenian descent and has been living in the United States since the age of ten. Staib earned his MFA in dance and choreography from Temple University, where he served on the faculty upon graduation. In 2001, he joined the dance faculty at Emory University, teaching contemporary, ballet, composition, and a seminar dedicated to the study of politics, philosophy and art. He serves as an adjudicator for the American College Dance Association, has been recognized by Dance Teacher Magazine as one of the top five dance educators in the country and is a two-time recipient of Emory University’s highly prestigious Winshp Award. In 2011, Staib traveled to Tel Aviv, Israel to spend five weeks studying Gaga technique with members of the Batsheva Dance Company and release technique with Iris Enez, as well as leading choreographic workshops and feedback sessions. These exchanges are ongoing and currently infuse not only his teaching but also the artistic programming for the staibdance Summer Intensive in Sorrento, Italy.  Staib was promoted to the rank of professor of practice in 2018. He will travel to Australia, New Zealand, and England in 2020 to begin collaborative ventures with artists dedicated to “devised physical theater and dance” processes, while also touring his latest work, "fence," across the United States.


Atlanta-native Sarah Hillmer has dedicated over 17 years to the professional dance world as a dancer, assistant to choreographers, ballet master, stager, educator and creator. Her company credits include Atlanta Ballet, glo (as a founding member) and staibdance. During Hillmer’s tenure as ballet master at Atlanta Ballet, she worked alongside world-renowned figures in the ballet world and coached dancers in seminal works by Ohad Naharin, Jiří Kylián, Wayne McGregor, Gustavo Ramírez Sansano, John McFall, Helgi Tomasson, Gemma Bond, Craig Davidson, Ricardo Amarante and Yuri Possokhov.  It was during her time at Atlanta Ballet that ongoing artistic relationships with Twyla Tharp and Helen Pickett were forged. She was instrumental in the building of their full-length ballets and continues to stage their work globally. Hillmer’s work as a stager and assistant have taken her to Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Kansas City Ballet, Oklahoma City Ballet, Smuin Ballet, New York Theatre Ballet, University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA), Alberta Ballet, Pennsylvania Ballet and Scottish Ballet. In 2017, Hillmer formed ImmerseATL, a contemporary dance training platform designed to serve as a bridge between the pre-professional and professional world of dance for young artists. www.immerseatl.com 


Ben Coleman is a British multi-disciplinary artist residing in Denver, CO. His practice encompasses performance, music, sonic art and mixed-media installation projects. Coleman studied contemporary performance making at Brunel University, London. Moving to the US in 2006, Coleman dedicated a number of prolific years to making and performing music in popular Atlanta bands Judi Chicago and Noot d’ Noot. He became certified in music recording and audio production at Recording Workshop, OH. These fresh skills catalyzed a shift across disciplines with a return to performance and live art and new roles as composer, sound designer and sonic artist. His practice has since grown through collaboration to encompass diverse projects with choreographers, visual artists, and theater practitioners, as well as an increasing range of curatorial projects. www.bencolemansounds.com


Tamara Cobus has been designing nationally and internationally for theater, dance, performance artists and personal clients for over thirty years. Her designs have been seen on runways for fashion, bridal and arts festivals.  After a long career running her own business, she took the position of costume director for Richmond Ballet and then Atlanta Ballet. She retired from directorship to pursue a new career in film with “Black Panther” being one of her recently credited films. 


Sara W. Culpepper is Atlanta-based and working as a lecturer in the Department of Theater and Dance and resident scenic artist and scenic designer with Theater Emory at Emory University. Designing both nationally and locally, she has had the pleasure of working with many talented artists, including Heritage Theatre Festival, The Atlanta Opera, The Culbreth Stage, Alliance Theatre, Dogwood Studios, Georgia Shakespeare Festival, The Center for Puppetry Arts, CENTERSTAGE in Baltimore, and Williamstown Theatre Festival. Her approach to set design incorporates the integration of the human form within its environment. She enjoys the translation of text into location and the exploration of how the characters interact with the audience. Research is a huge part of this discovery, and she pulls from her personal experience and emotional responses to produce the surroundings. Line, texture and color are essential to her composition and design.


Jessica Anderson is one half of Atlanta artist duo Into Outof Studio, alongside Sebastian Monroy. They founded Into Out of Studio to make collaborative interactive and computational artwork together, having recently worked with Fernbank Natural History Museum, re:imagine/ATL and Eyedrum Gallery. The two artists combine their backgrounds in digital media and computer graphics to create installation artworks that immerse viewers in new sensory experiences, which connect people to each other in new ways. They have worked with organizations like Digital Naturalism Labs, T.Lang Dance, Mass Collective, Fernbank Museum of Natural History, Brutal Studio, Eyedrum Gallery and The Bakery. Through their artwork, they challenge viewers to engage critically and creatively with the possibilities that digital technologies bring to artistic experience.


Sean Nguyen-Hilton is an arts leader working in Atlanta. Nguyen-Hilton’s work has been presented locally at the Human Rights Campaign Gala, Museum of Contemporary Art GA, Kennesaw State University, The Windmill Arts Center, and The High Museum of Art and by Atlanta Ballet’s Wabi Sabi, Atlanta Ballet’s Fellowship Ensemble, and Emory Dance Company. Previously, Nguyen-Hilton danced for Columbia Classical Ballet, River North Dance Chicago, Armitage Gone! Dance, glo and staibdance. In 2015, Sean was a Hughley Fellow through the Atlanta arts organization WonderRoot and a Hambidge Center for Creative Arts and Sciences Distinguished Fellow with Fly on a Wall. Nguyen-Hilton is currently a lecturer of dance at Kennesaw State University, co-artistic director of Fly on a Wall and an educator with ImmerseATL. He also serves on the board of directors for DanceATL.