By Hutton Jackson
A&E and Online Editor
This article was originally published in Issue 11, Fiftieth Year of The Minstrel (March 24, 2016). Click here to view the entire issue.
On the weekend of March 18, the DeSales dance department hosted its annual DeSales University Dance Ensemble (DUDE) featuring six unique performances, including the restaging of a piece originally performed in 1937.
The first performance was titled “It’s Not What It Looks Like” and contained many unexpected elements, particularly the use of brightly colored sleeping bags as props. Choreographed by Angela Sigley Grossman, an assistant professor of dance at DeSales, this modern dance set to upbeat techno music featured dancers constantly twisting and interacting with both each other and their props.
The next piece, “Trekking,” was choreographed by Tara Madsen Robbins, a DeSales adjunct professor of dance, and featured dancers in vibrant colors performing to exotic tribal-like music. The constant beating of drums and shifting of colored lighting matched the fast-paced dance, which displayed fierce and athletic movements from the dancers.
The third piece, “Dark Elegies,” was this year’s historical piece, which was restaged with the help of répétiteur Kirk Peterson, a specialist whose job was to ensure the artistic integrity of the piece remained intact.
“Dark Elegies” first debuted in London in 1937 and was choreographed by the legendary Antony Tudor. In a speech before the concert, John Bell, the head of the division of performing arts, mentioned that the department waited over a year to get permission to restage the piece. He claimed that the dance was another piece that reaffirmed the department’s “commitment to expose dancers to historical dance pieces.”
The lengthy ballet explored themes of grief and featured dancers in simple garb, with female dancers wearing bonnets. The dance was set to opera-style music titled ‘Kindertotenlieder,” which means “Songs on the Death of Children,” and evoked a somber and serious mood throughout.
The next dance, “LET’S ROCK,” couldn’t have been more different from the previous dances and featured music from the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll himself: Elvis Presley. The piece choreographed by Trinette Singleton, an adjunct ballet instructor at DeSales and former principle dancer of the Joffrey Ballet, offered a unique throwback to the age of Rock ‘n’ Roll and used the classic songs “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Trouble,” “All Shook Up” and “Are You Lonesome Tonight.” The classical ballet piece featured a unique twist on the genre and overall offered the most spunk out of all this year’s performances.
The following dance, “Predator/Prey,” choreographed by Julia Mayo, an assistant professor of dance at DeSales, featured an ominous tone represented by intense and precise movements. The piece was one of the darker dances of the concert and examined the theme of fear.
Lastly, the final piece, “Feed—Unplugged,” took aim at the topic of social media and featured various noises such as static and beeping. The piece was choreographed by guest choreographer and artistic director of the J CHEN PROJECT, Jessica Chen, and featured the dance majors of the Class of 2016. The piece showcased a contrast between fluid and sharp movements, which were accompanied by heavy-hitting music.
In addition to the performances, Tim Cowart, chair of the dance department, received the “Distinguished Dance Artist” award from the Lehigh Valley Dance Consortium for his work in dance. The award is not just a testament to Cowart’s tremendous work for the program in the past decade, but the high esteem the dance department has built over the years.
Overall, the show displayed a variety of talent and creativity from both the choreographers and dancers involved and is a testament to the program’s continued success in the field of dance.