From Suffering to Restoration: Inside Hannah Thomas's Dance Residency

By Kristen Hudgins 


Photography by Annie Neal

Suffering, rain, and restoration are at the heart of Hannah Thomas’s transformative 3-week residency. A rare opportunity in academia, the UO School of Music and Dance (SOMD) Assistant Professor invited select SOMD dancers and guest artists from across the country to participate in the explorative journey.  

“I just wanted to create that incubator experience for all those people who are still looking for that company experience, to just dance,” Thomas explained. 

Thomas meticulously selected eight women to travel to Eugene, where they embarked on a journey of self-discovery through a series of challenging workshops and rehearsals. These sessions will culminate in two evening-length concerts on June 7 and 8. 

“This experience has been very rigorous, very physically intense, and very mentally stimulating,” recent graduate from Portland, Oregon, Kate Zipper, said.  

For Emily Andaya, an SOMD BFA dance student, the residency offers an opportunity to transcend personal boundaries and connect with a deeper sense of purpose. “It’s a challenge for sure but I’m here for it, ready to take it on, and feel that success and fulfillment in the end.” she affirmed. 


Thomas instructs SOMD student Emily Andaya, photo by Annie Neal

Beyond its artistic significance, the residency serves as a platform for creative research. The topics of Black faith and Sisterhood were woven throughout the various workshops and will be present in the final performances.  

"I have a group of women who are willing to go there with me,” she said. “Even if they don’t necessarily align with the beliefs, they’re curious enough to be able to tell a piece of my story and figure out how they can connect with the human experience of it all.”  

The focus on Black faith spoke deeply to Eryn Cade, a recent MFA dance graduate from University of Alabama. “I’m so grateful that we are merging dance and faith together here,” she said. “In my own dance practice, I already do that, so to be with someone else that processes in the same way it really is meaningful. It really means a lot.” 

Cleo Washington, a BFA dance major at the University of Colorado Boulder, has also connected to the experience, echoing Eryn’s sentiments. “We’re combining different styles with spirituality and bringing ourselves into the work,” she said. “This is something I have not done before and it’s an experience I'm excited that I get to have!”  

The group’s culminating performance, “Precept(itation): Can You Stand the Rain?” is a full-length iteration of a previous piece Thomas staged with the dance company, The Black Artists Dance Collective. After completing that project, she was inspired to expand the work and delve deeper into themes of suffering and restoration as they relate to rain. 


Photography by Annie Neal

“Rain can be seen as destructive, but it also provides nourishment,” she explained. “It depends on our lens and how we’re viewing rain. And then we can look back on that time of rain and see the growth that has come and be grateful for how it has brought us to a new level.” 

Drawing inspiration from various faith traditions and personal narratives, the final show will embark on a journey of introspection and resilience, weaving together themes of struggle, hope, and transformation. 

Through dynamic Hip Hop and Contemporary choreography, evocative music, and immersive storytelling, it will invite audiences to engage with profound questions about the human condition and the transcendent power of hope. 

“If you’re coming to the show, my hope is that you are moved in radical joy to see that even after suffering there’s joy,” Thomas said. “Even after suffering there’s community and there’s love and there’s growth, and to be inspired by the different types of idioms you'll see onstage.”  

Tickets to Precept(itation) are available at