Perry-Mansfield students learn versatility in dance |

Perry-Mansfield students learn versatility in dance

Erin Gleason

— Dancers need to be flexible in more ways than one. At Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School and Camp, students learn this lesson first-hand during the six-week program that exposes them to genres ranging from ballet to tap, jazz and modern dance.

“Dancers are required to be versatile,” said Linda Kent, director of “An Evening of Dance.” “We encourage them to take as many different subjects as possible in order to enhance their focus and broaden their style.”

Now in their fifth week of camp, the high school- and college-aged dancers have spent the past month rehearsing for “An Evening of Dance,” the program’s annual showcase. Kent, who is in her seventh summer at Perry-Mansfield, teaches at the Juilliard School in New York City. In addition to directing at Perry-Mansfield, Kent also teaches classes during the day.

“It’s important to learn from the classics to be able to be a part of dance today,” Kent said. “These students have the opportunity to be exposed to dance they can’t have at home.”

The eight pieces that make up “An Evening of Dance” range from ballet to trapeze aerial dance, highlighting the range of talent in both staff and students.

“It’s such a diverse show,” Kent said. “The level of choreography in the dances creates such a different mood for each piece.”

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“Journeys,” choreographed by third-year Perry-Mansfield staff member Nicholas Villeneuve, examines the relationships between the sexes.

“It’s an abstract piece about the differences between the strengths of men and women,” Villeneuve said. “The beauty in the end is the eventual harmony between the two.”

“Journeys” is a contemporary piece, meaning modern dance fused with classical elements. Villeneuve originally choreographed the piece in 2003, and has refreshed the work for the Perry-Mansfield performance.

“‘Journeys’ is about crossing paths and the idea of falling out of line, and how to get back on track,” Villeneuve said.


As the singular traditional pointe piece in “An Evening of Dance,” “Preludes” features five ballet dancers.

“Each of the five dancers represents a distinct ballet position and mood,” rehearsal director Ernesta Corvino said. “It very much relies on the emotions exhibited by the dancers.”

Corvino took over rehearsals for choreographer Rick McCullough last week, providing a female perspective to the only all-female piece in “An Evening of Dance.”

“It’s an interesting traditional and contemporary piece,” Corvino said. “And very technically difficult.”

Crash Landings

“Crash Landings” is based on the humor of early pilots and incorporates low-flying trapeze and aerial dance.

“They were extreme daredevils,” choreographer Julie Ludwick said, “yet they were able to tell their stories in such casual and funny ways.”

Ludwick, who started the Fly-By-Night Dance Theater in New York City, combines traditional floor dance with trapeze in a modern style. Two of the seven dancers in “Crash Landings” took classes last summer with Ludwick; the other five learned the new style of dance and choreography in five weeks.

“A background in gymnastics helps,” Ludwick said. “The piece isn’t the circus, but it’s something different that can combine all aspects of dance into something new.”

As for “An Evening of Dance,” Ludwick believes it’s a rare opportunity for students and the public.

“Most workshops at this professional of a level don’t include a performance,” Ludwick said. “These are young, talented kids with a great future in the industry ahead of them.”