The Mercyhurst Dance Department successfully presented its fall concert, “Stravinsky Celebration,” last weekend in the Mary D’Angelo Performing Arts Center.
The performance began with “Pulcinella,” choreographed by Dance Chair Tauna Hunter. One of the great strengths of the dance department is its solid ballet training, and this shone through in the choreography.
The piece showcased the technical prowess of the dancers while also incorporating clownish fun into the movement.
“Closing the Glass Door” by guest artist Randy James, which previously appeared in the Parent’s Weekend performance, was a duet that inspired thought and a variety of interpretations from audience members and dancers alike.
The meaning of the piece was rather ambiguous, but the performance was definitely striking and emotionally moving, regardless of personal interpretation.
“Rite of Spring,” choreographed by Assistant Professor Mark Santillano as a 21st century retelling of the original by Vaslav Nijinsky, portrayed the dangers of excessive college partying and peer pressure.
Just as the original centered on the ritual sacrifice of a young girl, Santillano’s reinterpretation depicted the accidental death of a girl, played by senior Heather Mills, who could not handle the alcohol and risk taking that she was pressured to take part in during spring break escapades.
Reactions to this piece were anything but apathetic.
Some viewers loved the work for its discussion of an important and sensitive issue, but others were irritated and even offended by its blunt display.
“All the other dances in the concert fit the music they were set to very well, but I felt like the modernization of ‘Rite of Spring’ took away from that unity,” senior Melia Stanek said.
The second half of the concert featured the one-act story ballet ‘Firebird,’ a fairytale complete with princesses, monsters, and a magical bird of fire. This ballet was choreographed by Adjunct Professor Michael Gleason with assistance from Associate Professor C. Noelle Partusch.
One of the great strengths of this ballet was the impressive set design, as well as the dynamic contrast provided by the dance of the monsters. The opening dance of the Firebird and the pas de deux (dance for two) between the Firebird and the prince Ivan were also full of lovely moments.
“I thought the show was fantastic,” said audience member Kate Mueller. “The staging and lighting was striking, and the set for ‘Firebird’ was very elaborate. All the pieces also had very clear story lines and messages.”
Dance Chair Tauna Hunter also reflected positively on the entire performance.
“It’s been a wonderful ride,“ she said. “We had great audiences and great performances.“