35 Years: An Anniversary Gala showcases talent

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 performance 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.

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-to-be-newlyweds Valerie Nezich (’05) 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 Blanchine-esque 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.”