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May 5, 2010
ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
‘35 Years: An Anniversary Gala’ showcases talent By Claire Hinde Staff writer
This past weekend, the Mercyhurst College dance department celebrated its 35th anniversary with “35 Years: An Anniversary Gala” at the Mary D’Angelo Performing Arts Center (PAC). The perfor-
mance featured the usual diverse and crowd-pleasing array of dances by Mercyhurst students, as well as two stupendous presentations by three alumni of the department. The first act consisted of the romantic ballet “Les Sylphides,” a dreamy scene for the audience as beautiful soloists flitted on and off stage.
Tyler Stauffer photo
Senior Heather Gorres performs in the ballet “Les Sylphides,” a romantic piece with music by Frederic Chopin.
The second act was more eclectic, featuring dances from every time period, with all dancers en pointe. “The Piano,” a somewhat macabre piece, began the act. “The Piano” presented guest artist Lucia Unrau playing live music while seated at the grand piano, which sat in the center of the stage. The dancers danced around it, donning masks and continually being drawn in toward Unrau’s furious music. “Inscape,” an angular yet harmonious pas de deux, showcased the talents of Mercyhurst dancers, including seniors Trevor Sones, Erin Alarcon, Alyssa Alger and Christopher Taddiken. Next, the department exhibited a very distinct Balanchine-style movement in “Petit Dances” choreographed by guest artist Carter Alexander. The dancers, dressed in plain black-and-white leotards resembling piano keys, danced with technical precision and a flourish of simplicity. It was also in the second act that the audience was introduced to the alumni. Christine VanSchaick Geren (’98) performed the famous variation “Dying Swan” originally choreographed by Michel Fokine. “Earth,” choreographed by Dianna Cuatto and performed by soon-tobe-newlyweds Valerie Nezich (’05)
Tyler Stauffer photo
Seniors Chris Taddiken and Alyssa Alger perform a pas de deux in the piece “Inscape.” and Brian Walker (’06), was a heated and alluring performance. The finale of the Anniversary Gala was a new work by assistant professor of dance Mark Santillano. His piece “Rhapsody sur le Pointe” featured energetic and eye-popping dancing to the famous work of George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue.” This piece was surely a crowd pleaser as the dancers whirled offstage in a flurry of bright colors.
The performance as a whole surely had something to offer everyone. Junior Sarah Mastrocola said, “It had a nice blend of classical and historical works as well as more recent contemporary ballet. I especially liked seeing the Blanchineesque movement in ‘Petit Dances’ and the edgy beauty of ‘Inscape.’ It is clear that there is much to celebrate in this department and many more dances to come.”
’Hurst dancers compete at famous competition By Sarah Mastrocola Staff writer
In early January of this year, freshmen dance majors Olivia Boyd and Emma Rishel attended the Youth American Grand Prix (YAGP) competition semi-finals in Philadelphia, Pa. YAGP is a dance scholarship competition held annually around the world, with a variety of locations for the semi-finals each year.
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The mission of YAGP is to provide extraordinary educational and professional opportunities for young dancers, acting as a bridge to a professional dance career. This trip, planned and escorted by dance department chair Tauna Hunter, supplied an unprecedented opportunity for Boyd and Rishel to grow from the experience of dancing in this world-famous student ballet scholarship competition. Participation in YAGP this year also involved the Mercyhurst
Dance Department’s representation at the education initiative “Dance in Higher Education,” a new YAGP program in its inaugural year. Boyd performed two different ballet selections at the competition, a variation from “La Esmeralda” and one of the odalisque variations from “Le Corsaire.” Boyd said that she enjoyed performing both variations, though she said she felt she performed the odalisque better at YAGP. Rishel danced the women’s varia-
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tion from the Peasant Pas de Deux from “Giselle,” as well as the Aurora wedding variation from “Sleeping Beauty.” At the competition, both Boyd and Rishel received Honorable Mention for participating in the program. Boyd was invited to attend the YAGP workshop and gala performance in New York City. “It was cool to see all the other people who came to compete—it was good to learn from them and watch them,” Boyd said.
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Rishel also emphasized the educational aspects of this competition. “The rehearsal process in preparation for the competition was in many ways the best part,” she said. “It was good to work one-on-one with the dance faculty, as I learned a lot about artistry and developing a variation beyond just the steps. I can then use this knowledge in other areas of my dancing.” “Ms. Hunter is a very good coach,” Boyd added
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