Eclectic choreography on stage

Jennie Lay

An eclectic array of choreography ranging from trapeze dance to a Broadway medley to ballet will grace the Main Studio stage at Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School and Camp tonight and Saturday.

Perry-Mansfield’s annual “Evening of Dance” features high school and college age dancers performing seven pieces by world-class choreographers. The dancers have spent the past weeks honing their crafts and broadening their artistic and athletic horizons. This performance is their grand finale.

“This has been an eventful experience that I want to continue. It has opened my eyes to new art,” said ballet dancer Jessi Ehrlich, 17, of San Angelo, Texas, who is expanding her dance repertoire by performing in one modern and two jazz pieces after spending summers at American Ballet Theater and San Francisco Ballet intensive programs.

Dancer Tim Ward, 18, from New Orleans said his summer at Perry-Mansfield has been a great opportunity to work with acclaimed Juilliard School instructors before he starts attending school with them in New York this fall.

“It has been really extraordinary,” Ward said.

Ward and Ehrlich will be joined on stage by 27 talented young dancers for a mixed bill that reflects the sensibilities of Perry-Mansfield’s high-energy dance faculty.

The concert opens with an excerpt of choreography called “Wings” by Takehiro Ueyama that appeared during the New Noises festival in June. Jill Echo, Ueyama’s rehearsal director for his Take Dance Company in New York City, spent an extra week with the camp’s students to set the “wonderful, dance-filled piece,” as Perry-Mansfield dance director Linda Kent described it.

Elizabeth Keen choreographed “Dream Fragments” using the dancers’ movements created during her class. Those movements are interpretations of feelings such as nightmares and the shock of waking up from nightmares, fast versus slow, and the serenity of nature. The end result is a piece that Keen calls “a collage of contrasts.”

Keen’s creative movement piece is followed by a ballet called “The Magdalene,” which choreographer Brian Frette calls “ridiculously over the top” and “hyper romantic.” The piece features a lead couple and a corps de ballet dancing to a rock opera by Freddy Mercury. It illustrates one man’s struggle between love and his career and is full of sweeping themes of passion and regret, Frette said.

Jazz teacher Bryan Steele gives his students the opportunity to break loose, move their hips and lip sync in a four-part Broadway medley featuring music from “Chicago,” “Life,” “Cabaret” and “The Producers.” The medley is “sexy, fun, and it’s a step above musical theater,” Steele said, noting that no one possibly could sing and do this kind of aerobic dancing at the same time.

Dancers take to the low-flying trapeze in Julie Ludwick’s “What Goes Up,” an exploration of vertical and horizontal space choreographed to Bach. This is an excerpt of a piece Ludwick choreographed for her own Fly By Night dance company in New York.

Featured 2003 New Noises choreographer Robert Battle’s work returns to the Perry-Mansfield stage in “Battle Etude,” a piece that was commissioned by the summer dance program at Skidmore College. Battle’s rehearsal director spent one week with the students teaching them the dance.

“It explores percussive movement and full uncompromised athletic energy,” Kent said.

“Evening of Dance” closes with a new piece by guest artist Stephen Pier. Pier choreographed “Brilliant Sky” using the Perry-Mansfield dancers earlier this summer. Discussing the new work among Perry-Mansfield’s dance instructors, Keen called Pier’s new work “very modern and very important.”

The instructors agreed that this is a unique opportunity to see a dance with its original cast, showcasing the purest initial intent of the choreographer.

“He was thrilled with the dancers,” Kent said of Pier.

“Evening of Dance” starts at 8 p.m. both nights, and these typically are sell-out performances.

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