Master Choreographers dance concert displays talents of acclaimed choreographers and more than 40 dancers
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.