Erie Festival of Dance creates sense of community

Jill Barrile photo: The Liturgical Dance Ensemble was one of many Erie-based groups to perform this weekend.Jill Barrile photo: The Liturgical Dance Ensemble was one of many Erie-based groups to perform this weekend.Mercyhurst College hosted the biannual Erie Festival of Dance this past weekend.

The Festival of Dance is an Erie Dance Consortium event founded in 2000 to help bring the dance organizations in the Erie community together.

The festival certainly accomplishes that task. Currently under consortium president Sarah Purvis, the sixth dance festival presented more than 20 local groups in two onstage performances and several other small vignettes.

The two large performances, which included a “showcase” matinee and gala evening performance, were held in the Mary D’Angelo Performing Arts Center on Saturday.

Other small presentations were given in the Cummings Art Gallery during intermission as well as at the VIP reception.

Haley Bradstreet, a Mercyhurst dancer and administrative intern for this year’s festival, praised the consortium’s festival set-up.

“I think — because it occurs every other year — the festival is a really special event,” she said.

“It brings all Erie’s artistic minds together. Also, having a gala and a showcase gives everyone a chance to perform.

Jill Barrile photoJill Barrile photo“It also gives performers a chance to watch one another. The little performances create a whole day of dancing. It’s not just a performance, it’s an event,” she said.

Along with the local talents, the festival featured Lehrer Dance from Buffalo, N.Y. The dynamic group took the stage with comedic and athletic feats that dazzled all in attendance.

Senior dance major Christine Wilbur was particularly excited by Lehrer’s presence at the festival.

“They were a great addition to the festival. It opened up so many more possibilities for all of us to learn,” Wilbur said.
Lehrer Dance taught a master class Saturday afternoon between performances for all festival participants.

More than anything, the festival serves as a fun and strong bonding experience for artists in the Erie community. Solveig Santillano, Mercyhurst dance professor and co-artistic director of SoMar Dance Works, said the festival really helps her to build a community within the arts.

Certainly the performances were proof that arts in Erie are flourishing. The performances not only exhibited extraordinary talents, but were very wide ranging in style, including everything from classical ballet to Indian cultural dance, as well as swing dance.

By encompassing all forms, enabling social connection, and exhibiting excellent artistic prowess, Erie’s arts scene staged quite a festival.

The Erie community has much to look forward to from the consortium in 2013.