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Hadiya Pendleton-Inspired Piece to Help Launch Transition for Dance Company

 Choreographer Nicole Clarke-Springer rehearses Deeply Rooted Dance Theaters dancers for her piece "Hadiya."
Deeply Rooted Dance Theater's 'Hadiya'
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SOUTH LOOP — Nicole Clarke-Springer ruminated for a year on the spiritual disconnect that could drive Chicagoans to hurt one another before she heard about the death of Hadiya Pendleton.

The choreographer's three-movement piece, "Hadiya," will be featured in Deeply Rooted Dance Theater's forthcoming "Generations" show, debuting Friday.

The piece is not a life story of Hadiya — a 15-year-old King College Prep sophomore who was fatally shot in broad daylight at a park near her school last winter — nor does it detail the account of her death.

But Clarke-Springer said the violence that touched the Pendleton family stems from the same spiritual conflicts she was already exploring with this piece, in the works since last summer.

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"When the incident with Hadiya Pendleton occurred, I was really struck by it, and hurt by it as a mother," said Clarke-Springer, who has two young daughters.

"When I had heard about the story, I kept concentrating on her name and looking at her face, and there was such a light from it, and [a] voice said, 'What does her name mean?'" she said. "I researched it, and it was 'spiritual guide.' And I thought, that's the name of my ballet. That's exactly what it should be: It should be 'Hadiya.'"

The Pendleton family was not involved in the piece's creation, but Nate Pendleton, Hadiya's father, said he supports the piece's message and hopes to attend.

"I think that anything that's putting out a positive message is a very good thing for our society and our neighborhood," Pendleton said. "Anything that can uplift the kids, we both feel, is pertinent to them today ... anything that's on a positive note, we absolutely support it."

Clarke-Springer said the company will "save as many tickets" as the Pendleton family needs.

"When you see the ballet, you won't view any of the events that occurred about her life," Clarke-Springer said. "It's more of an influence of the name: spiritual guide, Hadiya, connecting with our guides ... listening out for that small voice that pushes us to our higher self."

(Watch our video for a sneak peek into rehearsals for "Hadiya" at Deeply Rooted's South Loop studio.)

The "Generations" show marks both the premiere of "Hadiya" and a turning point for Deeply Rooted Dance Company. Kevin Iega Jeff, the company's artistic director and co-founder, said the five-year fall show series that launches this weekend will transition new artistic leadership into the 18-year-old South Loop-based company.

"Over the next five years, we'll be expanding the artistic team, and also developing the management team. We're beginning to pass the reins onto new leadership," Jeff said.

Many of those new leaders will be alumni from the education-focused dance company.

"What's beautiful about it is that the first class of students that came through Deeply Rooted's training program, and went through the company, and came out into the field performing as professionals, a lot of them are now coming home, and taking on new levels of leadership," Jeff said.

"When we first came to Chicago, we didn't have the company that we needed to really ensure its future," he said. "Now, the generation that we first trained is coming home. ... By the end of the five years, you'll see a new face of leadership on the company."

Each of the "Generations" shows the company plans to stage annually between now and 2017 will be performed at the Harris Theater and in New York City, Jeff said.

"Generations" including "Hadiya" will be performed at 8 p.m. Friday at the Harris Theater. Tickets range from $25 to $65 and can be bought online.