DeSales Dancers Participate in LVAIC Rivers Merge Dance Festival

By Hutton Jackson
A&E and Online Editor

This article was originally published in Issue 3, Fiftieth Year of The Minstrel (October 8, 2015). Click here to view the entire issue.

On the weekend of Sept. 25 and 26, the LVAIC Dance Consortium celebrated its 40th Anniversary and presented its Rivers Merge Dance Festival, featuring unique performances from 10 different Lehigh Valley- based choreographers. The concert featured nine current DeSales dance students as performers, three DeSales faculty choreographers and numerous DeSales alumni as both performers and choreographers.

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Photo courtesy of Lafayette College Williams Center.

The Rivers Merge Dance Festival was unique in many ways including a site-specific work that was performed at the convergence of the Delaware and Lehigh Rivers. The performance, titled “(in) visible veins: Rivers Merge,” was choreographed by Jessica Warchal-King and featured DeSales dancers senior Gina Palumbo, senior Jennifer Campbell, junior Samantha Burns and junior Cailin Sweeney.

“The site-specific work at Scott Park was a tremendous undertaking for not only Jessica, but our students as well, many of whom have never performed outdoors or in any kind of site-specific work,” said DeSales professor and alum Angela Sigley Grossman.

The show continued at the Williams Center at Lafayette College and featured three performances choreographed by DeSales faculty.

The first piece, designed by DeSales dance professor Julia Mayo, was titled “we seek” and featured a duet between DeSales senior Melissa Faller and professional Daniel Mayo. The dance was both ominous and emotional, and featured elegant movements from the dancers.

“The most challenging part about the piece was performing with a dancer who is well known and a professional in the dance field,” Faller said about her experiences dancing with Mayo. “I’m used to performing with my peers and people my age. It was a nerve- racking experience, but I am also extremely grateful for the opportunity.”

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DeSales alum Julie Wright and current DeSales students Jackie McCreavy and Emmy Spaar perform “Capriccios” along with their fellow cast members.

The next dance was “Capriccios” choreographed by Trinette Singleton, current DeSales professor and co- artistic director at Repertory Dance Theatre in Allentown, Pa. The ballet piece was performed by several dancers including DeSales alum Julie Wright (Class of 2015), senior Jackie McCreavy and sophomore Emmy Spaar, and featured whimsical movements and bright colors.

“Capriccios” was originally choreographed for the Grand Rapids Ballet Company (Grand Rapids, Mich) in 1994. Singleton later staged the complete work on Texas Ballet Ensemble in 2010, and won the “Outstanding Choreographer Award” at the semi-finals of the Youth America Grand Prix.

Rivers Merge needed pieces short in length, so only the first movement was used.

“The three dancers I chose from DeSales all have a wonderful work ethic, strong pointe technique and performance quality,” replied Singleton when asked why she chose the dancers who were cast in the piece.

“I really enjoyed working with my professor Trinette Singleton in a professional setting and an environment outside DeSales,” says Jackie McCreavy. “I’m very fortunate to be able to meet and share the stage with so many professional dancers.”

The final piece featuring DeSales students was “…I would rather have birds…” choreographed by Angela Sigley Grossman. The duet featured sophomore Emmy Spaar and sophomore Julian Andrews and was inspired by the relationship between Charles

and Anne Morrow Lindbergh. The title for this piece is inspired by one of Charles Lindbergh’s well-known quotations: “I realized that if I had to choose, I would rather have birds than airplanes. In wilderness, I sense the miracle of life, and behind it our scientific accomplishments fade to trivia.”

“The duet focuses solely on the relationship between two human beings, inspired by the unique marriage between Charles and Anne. Conflicting feelings of isolation, loss due to the kidnapping and death of their son, intimacy, trust, genuine happiness and struggle permeated their marriage,” Grossman said. “Inspired by this relationship, the performers in ‘…I would rather have birds…’ experience moments of soaring across the stage, connecting and disconnecting, intertwining and interweaving, struggle and support as they navigate their individual identities as well as their collective identity.”

Sophomore dance majors Emmy Spaar and Julian Andrews perform “...I would rather have birds...” at the Rivers Merge Dance Festival. Photo by Chuck Zovko, Lafayette College.
Sophomore dance majors Emmy Spaar and Julian Andrews perform “…I would rather have birds…” at the Rivers Merge Dance Festival. Photo by Chuck Zovko, Lafayette College.

Grossman decided she wanted to work with dancers Spaar and Andrews long before she developed the idea for the piece and taliored a performance for them.

“Both of these dancers are lovely technicians and have a natural performance quality; I was certain that they would complement each other on stage as well as in the rehearsal process,” said Grossman. “Both Ms. Spaar and Mr. Andrews are versatile movers and they are able to access a softness and tenderness that is needed for this work and the intimate partnering that it requires. As the piece progresses, we see an aloofness on the part of Mr. Andrews, and solemnity on the part of Ms. Spaar, bringing to life the emotional quality I am seeking for this work.”

The performers, choreographers and audience members alike were amazed by the outcome of the Rivers Merge Dance Festival and the unique collaboration that brought about the show.

When commenting on the show, Grossman concluded, “I think it was most worthwhile for our students at DeSales to see the larger community they are a part of and to understand their place within it.”

To see pictures and videos of the performance visit the Lehigh Valley Dancers facebook page.

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