Muhlenberg College, Master Choreographers
Muhlenberg College will showcase world premiere dance works created by five of the region's most accomplished choreographers and two restagings by internationally acclaimed choreographers, in the College's annual "Master Choreographers" dance concert, Feb. 7-9.
"This concert is a spectacular evening of ballet, tap, jazz, and contemporary dance," said Karen Dearborn, the director of dance for Muhlenberg's Department of Theatre & Dance, and the artistic director for "Master Choreographers." "We are fortunate to be showcasing new works by internationally acclaimed guest artists and faculty."
The performance will take place on the Empie Theatre stage, in Muhlenberg's Baker Center for the Arts.
This season's "Master Choreographers" concert will feature a restaging of the second movement of "Viva Vivaldi," the Joffrey Ballet's signature work, choreographed by Gerald Arpino and restaged for Muhlenberg by Trinette Singleton, co-artistic director of Repertory Dance Company and longtime Joffrey Ballet dancer.
Singleton was the first dancer to appear on the cover of a national news magazine (Time, in 1968). She is featured prominently in the recent Joffrey documentary, "The Joffrey Ballet: The Mavericks of American Dance," and is one of a handful of choreographers entrusted with restaging Joffrey pieces around the country.
"When it's your own choreography, you have total license," Singleton says. "When you're restaging, you have to stick as closely as possible to the choreographer's original vision. It's almost a little more nerve racking restaging someone else's choreography, because you want to get it right."
The evening will also feature a restaged work by Danish choreographer Charlotte Boye-Christensen, artistic director of the Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company, as well as world-premiere works by: Corrie Franz Cowart, co-artistic director of Co-Art Dance; Heidi Cruz-Austin, co-artistic director of DanceSpora and a Pennsylvania Ballet alumna; Dorrell Martin, founder and executive artistic director of LEON Dance Arts NY; Shelley Oliver, director of Shelley Oliver Tap Dancers; and Jeffrey Peterson, former dancer with Danny Buraczeski's JAZZDANCE.
Shelley Oliver's tap piece, "Inspiration Calls to Me," will feature a live performance by the David Leonhardt Jazz Group. She says that the band and the dancers both feed off of the synergy of live collaboration.
"When the music is performed live," Oliver says, "the dancers hear the work exactly as they know it, but with live embellishments that just bring the work to the next level. During performance, the band influences the dancers' energy, and the dancers' rhythms influence the band."
"Master Choreographers" features performances by more than 40 Muhlenberg dance students, in a wide range of contrasting styles, from classical ballet to cutting-edge contemporary. One piece from the latter end of the spectrum is "Passage," by Dorrell Martin, one of this season's guest choreographers. Martin says he has found the process of working with Muhlenberg's dancers to be particularly rewarding.
"Karen gave me the freedom to set whatever inspired me," Martin says. "A lot of the movement is movement that I have been working on a while. A lot of it came from the heart and just from the music itself. I have wanted to set this piece on my company for a while now. This gave me the opportunity to try out the concept, movement, and music on the Muhlenberg dancers first.
"The Muhlenberg dancers were really a delight to work with," he says. "Sometimes there are dancers that are used to moving a certain way but the Muhlenberg dancers were open and willing to accept new movement on their bodies. I love that sense of freedom because it opens me up to explore more movement."
Muhlenberg College is a liberal arts college of about 2,200 students in Allentown, Pa. The College offers Bachelor of Arts degrees in theater and dance. The Fiske Guide to Colleges lists both the theater and dance programs among the top small college programs in the United States. Muhlenberg is one of only eight colleges to be listed in Fiske for both theater and dance.
Performances of "Master Choreographers" will take place Thursday and Friday, Feb. 7-8, at 8 p.m., and Saturday, Feb. 9, at 2 and 8 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults and $8 for patrons 17 and under and for students, faculty and staff of LVAIC colleges. Performances are in the Empie Theatre, in the Baker Center for the Arts, Muhlenberg College, 2400 Chew St., Allentown. Information and tickets are available at 484-664-3333 or muhlenberg.edu/dance.
Gerald Arpino (1923-2008) co-founded the Joffrey Ballet with Robert Joffrey in 1956 and served as associate director for many years. Upon Joffrey's death in 1988, Arpino succeeded him as artistic director. In 1995, he moved the Joffrey Ballet to Chicago. A leading dancer with the company in its early years, Arpino choreographed his first work for the Joffrey, "Ropes," in 1961. Shortly thereafter, he became the Joffrey's resident choreographer and to date has created more than one-third of the company's repertoire. His amazingly diverse work ranges from social commentary to pure dance gems. His ballets are in the repertoires of companies around the world. Arpino served on numerous boards and councils including the national advisory council of the ITI/USA International Ballet Competition and the board of the Dance Notation Bureau. He was a member of the Arts Advisory Committee of the New York International Festival of the Arts. He served as an adviser to the Artists Committee for The Kennedy Center Honors.
Charlotte Boye-Christensen, a native of Copenhagen, Denmark, received her formal training at London Contemporary Dance School and at the Laban Centre in London (where she won the 1992 choreography award) and completed her Master of Fine Arts degree at Tisch School of the Arts, New York University. Charlotte has been commissioned to create new works for: Ballet West, The Milwaukee Ballet, Singapore Dance Theatre, The Arts Fissions Dance Company, Ballet de Camaguey in Cuba, New Danish Dance Theatre, Tisch School of the Arts' Second Avenue Dance Company in New York City, London Contemporary Dance School's Edge Dance Company, Compañía Danza Contemporánea CCU and Verb Ballets in Cleveland. In 2002 she joined Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company, located in Salt Lake City, Utah, to assist in the artistic direction of the company. She became the artistic director in 2008 and has created 24 new works on the company. In May of 2013, she is leaving her current position at Ririe-Woodbury to establish her own company CBCNOW Dance Theater. She is the recipient of a Fulbright Scholarship and grants from the Theatre and Arts Councils in Denmark, Germany, Mexico and Singapore among others, as well as a recipient of the Choo-San Goh Award for Choreographic Excellence.
Heidi Cruz-Austin is an alumna of the Pennsylvania Ballet, and she has danced featured roles in works by choreographers ranging from Alvin Ailey to George Balanchine. In addition to dancing with Pennsylvania Ballet, Cruz-Austin has performed with the Philadelphia-based company Ballet X and as a guest artist throughout the United States and Europe. As a choreographer, Cruz-Austin was a winner for the 2003 Ballet Builders showcase in New York City. She has been commissioned to create works for Franklin and Marshall College, Bryn Mawr College, Repertory Dance Theater, and Ballet D'errico, among others. She was a recipient of the 2004-2005 New Edge Residency at The Community Education Center of Philadelphia and of a 2008 Choreography Fellowship from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. In 2008, Cruz-Austin and accomplished dancer David Austin formed the contemporary dance company DanceSpora.