Mercyhurst dancers to perform in different styles

Tyler Stauffer photoTyler Stauffer photoThis weekend at the Mary D’Angelo Performing Arts Center (PAC), the Mercyhurst dance department will culminate the celebration of its 35th anniversary with the spring concert “35 Years: An Anniversary Gala.” Performances will take place Saturday, May 1, at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. and Sunday, May 2, at 2 p.m.

The dance concert will feature several different ballet pieces, both classical and neo-classical, along with some contemporary pieces.

“We are here to produce professional ballet dancers, and so I feel it is fitting that we conclude our anniversary season with works showing an evolution of ballet from the 20th and 21st centuries,” dance department Chair Tauna Hunter said.

The first act of the show will present “Les Sylphides,” a white ballet from the early 1900s Romantic era, with original choreography by Michael Fokine and music by Frederic Chopin.

This work, though not story-based, is characterized by the ethereal sylphs, which are fairy-like creatures that flit through the woods while pursued by a young male poet.

The second half of the performance will include several shorter pieces choreographed by Mercyhurst dance faculty and guest artists. “The Piano,” choreographed by Tauna Hunter, is set to the music of Alberto Ginestra and will be performed live by guest pianist Lucia Unrau of Bluffton University in Ohio. Assistant professor Mark Santillano has also choreographed a work, “Rhapsody sur le Pointe,” to music by George Gershwin, which will make its premiere in this show.

Guest artist Carter Alexander, principal teacher of the Miami City Ballet School, set a work while he was in residence in the dance department, and that work will also be performed in “35 Years: An Anniversary Gala.” His choreography, “Petite Dances,” features music by Darius Milhaud and “challenges the dancers to work in the ‘Balanchine style’ of movement,” Hunter said.

Acclaimed choreographer and director Bruce Marks taught at the Mercyhurst Summer Dance Experience last summer, and during that time he set two pas de deux pieces on the Mercyhurst dancers. One of these dances, “Inscape,” which reveals a dysfunctional relationship between the two dancers in the piece, will appear in this weekend’s performance.

As has also been true of the other dance department concerts this year, “35 Years: An Anniversary Gala” will include alumni performances as part of the anniversary celebration. Christine VanSchaick Geren (1998), now a dancer with the Albany Berkshire Ballet, will dance Fokine’s famous “Dying Swan” to the unforgettable music by Camille Saint-Saëns.

Valerie Nezich (2005) and Brian Walker (2006), both of whom are currently dancers with Ballet Theatre of Maryland (BTM), will perform “Primal Dreams,” choreographed by BTM Artistic Director Dianna Cuatto and set to music by Cybertribe.

Tickets for “35 Years: An Anniversary Gala” are just $1 with a valid Mercyhurst student ID and can be purchased at the PAC box office, or by calling extension 3000.