Jerel Hilding

Associate Professor Emeritus
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Jerel Hilding is an associate professor of dance at the University of Kansas. He teaches all levels of ballet, pointe, pas de deux and music for dancers. In addition to choreographing and assisting with the direction of the University Dance Company, Hilding has collaborated with the Kansas University Symphony Orchestra, the KU Opera and KU's Department of Theatre & Film on musicals, opera and dance concerts.

As a principal dancer with the Joffrey Ballet for 15 years, Hilding performed in works by many of the 20th century's most influential choreographers, including Balanchine, Arpino, Robbins, Ashton, Cranko, Jooss, Massine, and Tharp. He directed the New Jersey Ballet's Artist-in-Education program and worked as an instructor for New York's City Center Theatre Outreach Program. He has taught throughout the country including New York, New Jersey, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, and the Midwest.

Hilding holds a bachelor's degree in Music from Louisiana State University in New Orleans (now the University of New Orleans).


As a choreographer with an undergraduate degree in musicology, my research supports the mission of the department of dance and the university in two ways:

(1) choreography/composition in various ballet styles (romantic, classical, neoclassical, contemporary)

My long experience (16 years) as a professional dancer with one of the premier dance companies in the United States (The Joffrey Ballet), has exposed me to a wide range of dance styles, from ballet to modern and experimental works. I have performed works by many of the seminal choreographers of the last 100+ years including Balanchine, Robbins, Fokine, Nijinsky, Massine, Jooss, DeMille, Ashton, Cranko, Kylian, Tharp, Morris, and Forsyth. This experience led to my being honored as a Willson Center for Humanities and Arts Distinguished Artist at the University of Georgia in January 2015. As a distinguished artist, I was asked to give a presentation about my many experiences working with the above list of choreographers and teach ballet and pas de deux classes informed by my professional experience.

My training in jazz, Spanish, and Character dance has also informed my aesthetic and allowed me to create works in a wide variety of dance styles. I have choreographed over 50 works for dance, theatre, musicals, and operas and continue to produce at least one new work a year. In re-staged and added a new section to A Fine Romance, a ballet I originally choreographed in 2008. I also choreographed dances for the KU Opera production of Don Giovanni.

I have long been interested in the relationship between music and dance. I have studied piano since age 7 and received my B.A. in Dance History before becoming a professional dancer. I became a member of the International Guild of Musicians in Dance in 2010 to establish contacts with dance accompanists across the world to aid in a deeper exploration of dance accompaniment. On occasion, I play piano for some of our ballet classes as a substitute accompanist. I also am continually searching for appropriate music to accompany ballet classes. Since most of our dance technique classes use live musical accompaniment, my interest in a deeper exploration of dance accompaniment has manifested itself in recruiting, hiring, and/or training accompanists for our dance classes and classes at the Lawrence Arts Center. One of those accompanists has auditioned for accompanist positions in New York City and Chicago based on his experience at KU and the LAC.

The study of the relationship between music and dance continues to impact the music/dance course I teach at KU, DANC 210: Rhythms and Structures of Music. In 2015, I built three cajons for student use to aid in their understanding of rhythms.

Selected Presentations

Hilding, J. (1/13/2015 - 1/15/2015). Ballet Conversations. Willson Center for Humanities and Arts Distinguished Artist Ballet Conversations, a lecture in the New Dance Theatre on the campus of the University of Georgia, January 15, 2015. Athens, GA

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