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DeSales University Act 1 Presents Dance Ensemble Concert

by Tom McNamara Mar 17, 2022

The performing arts division of DeSales University presents its annual Dance Ensemble Concert, opening March 18 in the Main Stage Theatre of the Labuda Center for the Performing Arts.

The Dance Ensemble Concert will feature choreography by renowned guest choreographers and accomplished DeSales dance faculty members, including a stunning all-female staging of Paul Taylor’s 1976 work Cloven Kingdom. Other pieces will interpret the core values of the University: hospitality, gentleness, wisdom, gratitude, and humility.

“This year I decided to center the concert on the University’s newly adopted core values,” said Julia Mayo, artistic director and chair of the dance department at DeSales. “Each choreographer was given one of the five core values and asked to use it as the inspiration for their work and the catalyst for their choreography. What has been created is a physicalization of the University’s identity, providing an artistic expression of our shared values.”

Cloven Kingdom offers the theme that humans have animal natures that lurk just below the surface. A baroque music score contrasts with modern percussive music as the dancers, formally attired, veer between a waltz and modern dance steps that are not typical.

“The movement is so complex, so bestial and the idea behind it is Mr. Taylor is creating a comedy of manners—these very formal, very elegant people that suddenly reveal these very bestial elements of their human nature, which is part of us all,” said guest artist Annmaria Mazzini, former dancer of regisseur with the Paul Taylor Company, who staged Cloven Kingdom on the DeSales dancers. “[The DeSales dancers] are making this very challenging piece come to life in a very special way.”

Cloven Kingdom is traditionally staged with a quartet of male-identifying dancers, however in the Dance Ensemble Concert’s production, all roles will be performed by female-identifying dancers.

Another guest artist, Caili Quan, emerging choreographer and former BalletX dancer, created an original work interpreting the core value of wisdom titled, Hold Fast. “I asked each dancer to create a short solo inspired by three ideas they’ve learned from their time at DeSales; one physical, one emotional, and one spiritual,” said Quan. “We then worked together to create a phrase from these solos that started the movement vocabulary for the work. As graduating seniors, I wanted to create a dance for them that wove their memories and personal experiences together.”

Two additional guest artists, Matthew Neenan, Philadelphia-based choreographer and co-founder of BalletX, and Bennyroyce Royon, freelance choreographer, will interpret the core values of gentleness and hospitality respectively.

Angela Sigley Grossman, associate professor of dance at DeSales, will present a piece interpreting the core value of gratitude. “In the Weeds reflects a nostalgic look into the past and a thanksgiving, in many ways, for the gift of every day, for the things we have in our lives, the things we’ve done, the people we’ve known,” said Grossman. “It’s a reminder to enjoy what you have, to be grateful for the gifts in your life, and to not let life pass you by.”

E’lise Jumes, assistant professor of dance, choreographed a work interpreting the core value of humility. A fun and raucous piece, the dance calls the viewer to reflect on how “humbling moments open our eyes to the vastness in life—where the human form can rest in knowing that one thing is for sure: life is so much larger,” said Jumes.

The Dance Ensemble Concert runs from March 18 at 11:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m., March 19 at 8:00 p.m., and March 20 at 3:00 p.m. Live performances will take place on the Main Stage of the Labuda Center for the Performing Arts, and a prerecorded 24-hour streamed performance will be available on Saturday, April 2. Tickets for the live performances are $18 for adults and $15 for seniors and students. Tickets to the streamed performance are $12 per viewer.

Students who attend DeSales or any other Lehigh Valley college or university can purchase tickets for $6. Group discounts are available for all performances. Tickets may be purchased by calling the Labuda Center Box Office at 610-282-3192.