SoMar celebrates its 20th year


Erin Almeter, Staff writer

Make time in your schedule on Feb. 23 for a performance by the SoMar Dance Works company.
The event, Super SoMar Palooza!, is taking place in the Mary D’Angelo Performing Arts Center at 7 p.m.
SoMar Dance Works, with its base in the Mercyhurst University Dance Department, was cofounded and directed by Solveig and Mark Santillano.
Known for its creativity and artistry, this original dance company often “wows” those in attendance.
This company’s premiere occurred in 1999 at the Missouri Fine Arts Academy.
While it started there, it did not stay in one place.
Performances were soon occurring at the Erie Art Museum, Erie Festival of Dance, the American College Dance Festival, CelebrateErie, the Brick Church for the Performing Arts in Lovell, Maine, the Fredonia Opera House and overseas in Gothenburg, Sweden.
Mercyhurst is hosting the SoMar Dance company as it celebrates its 20th year of dance.
Solveig Santillano said, “It is our gift of thanks to Mercyhurst University for the support throughout the years.”
The dances being featured are choreographed by Solveig and Mark Santillano. While they are seasoned performers and have danced all over the world, they are also faculty in the Mercyhurst Dance department.
With influences from their former companies, Pilobolus Dance Theatre and Momix, the Santillanos were granted the inaugural Erie Arts and Culture Artist Fellowship.
The couple met during international tours with these companies.
They eventually made the transition from being on the road into education, family life and moving from Missouri to Erie.
The “palooza” of an event will feature 25 dancers performing nine favorite dances from the company’s 100-dance repertoire.
A feature dance on the program will be Free Fall.
While originally performed by the co-founders, the creative partnering work of this dance will be passed to Mercyhurst seniors, Lucas De Marinis and Sarah Taylor.
In addition, Tailspin Tango, Quicksilver, Piercing Darkness, Shape Shifters, Zoom Tube, Crouching Tutu and Hidden Drag Queen will be performed.
The evening will begin with a little flashlight piece magic and also include a dance centered on a play on numbers called “Pi.”
There will be a balance of new and old favorite pieces to create a time capsule of the best works of SoMar.
The company prides itself on creating a lot of different varieties of dance to include in their shows.
It is one part that contributes to the company’s “wow” factor.
The dancers are able to move from a light and fun themed piece to something more serious and attention grabbing.
As Solveig Santillano says, the company is “committed to dancing to enhance the community with beauty, but takes on projects of social awareness as well.”
The dances will range from a ballet piece en pointe to an unconventional tribute to and parody of Bruce Lee films as well as nontraditional duet pieces.
In addition, there will be a film component to one of the dances.
The music will be provided by a range of artists, but includes original music by Mark Santillano and a live flute performance by one of the co-founders’ favorite collaborators, Anna Meyer.
Two world premieres will also be revealed during the program.
The lighting will be provided by lighting designer Bob Steineck of Pittsburgh, who creates an atmosphere of magic and mood that lets the dance performance shine through.
The Super SoMar Palooza! will feature dancers who are Mercyhurst Dance majors, alumni and faculty.
It will include Gabrielle Bejarano, Kaitlyn Culp, Caitlin Cummings, De Marinis, Emma Devore, Kate Duane, Austin Duclos, Caroline Enwright, Kristen Faraclas, Dominic Fortunato, Sarah Gregory, Shelby Hildebrand, Niusha Karkehabadi, Nicole Quinn, Rachel Rhodanz, Mark Santillano, Solveig Santillano, Hannah Schayes, Lucie Shultz, Grace Sinke, Jessica Skinker, Jenna Swartz, Taylor, Jo Theisen and Margaret Vivian.
This is the largest cast in SoMar’s history.
This creates the opportunity for new possibilities with new people while also appreciating the people that continue to stick around.
It is the first time that the roles will be turned over to the students rather than the Santillanos performing them.
They describe it as “bittersweet.”
It was apparent that this was the right time for the students to take on these challenging dances.
Solveig Santillano praised the students, saying “there is a high level of dedication and focus that is unique to this department.”
She went on to say, “As educators and choreographers, (Mark) and I think about how we can help them realize their dreams. If they want to work with us, we want to work with them.”
Faraclas expressed her thoughts on the performance, saying, “My favorite part of performing with SoMar is that it is a contemporary company which provides a lot of contrast to what we get exposure to in our department, which is mainly classical ballet.”
“The show has an eclectic mix of pieces; there’s sure to be something for everyone,” she said.
Often called “daring, evocative, and slightly mad,” this celebratory performance is sure to entice any attendee ranging from those new to concert dance to dance aficionados, Faraclas said.
With the help of Pennsylvania Partners in the Arts grant by Erie Arts and Culture and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, this performance is set to take the stage.
Solveig Santillano expressed her thanks to all that have helped make this event spectacular, and said, “We are so grateful for Mercyhurst University, the Dance department, our students, friends, colleagues and greater Erie community’s ongoing support. It is a joy to have the opportunity to celebrate our company, SoMar Dance Work’s 20th Anniversary with the Super SoMar Palooza!”
Tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for seniors, $7.50 for students and $7.50 for Mercyhurst students and youth.
Come join in on the celebration at this palooza dance event and enjoy a post-performance piece of cake following the show.