by Gina Palumbo for The Dance Journal
On the first day of June, students of Metropolitan Ballet Academy & Company could be found gathering once more for The Student Showcase, which was held locally at Abington Friends School in Jenkintown. With an audience comprised of each student’s biggest fans, the comradery was tangible both onstage and offstage, and the dancers thrived on it.
Divertimento in F Major, lovingly known as Mozart to the dancers, opened the showcase with choreography from Denise Somrack D’Angelo. Dressed elegantly in glittering white, the dancers entered into a stunning display of their accomplishments in classical ballet. Filled with strenuous partnering and technical brilliance, this work reflects the heights in which classical ballet can take a dancer. With nothing short of breath and beauty, Mozart marks a great milestone for its gifted cast to look back on.
After ballet, it was time for Moriaky (Sailors) to take flight. Originally choreographed by Pavlo Virsky and staged by Taras Lewyckyj of the Voloshsky Ukranian Dance Ensemble, Moriaky brought spunk and athleticism to the stage. In a work where musicality is of the essence, an all-male cast used percussive movement to keep time as they soared across the stage. A large circle was formed as twenty-eight dancers emerged from the wings, traveling far and leaping high to give each dancer the room they deserved to tell their story.
When asked about the beginnings of The Boys Program at Metropolitan Ballet Academy, Artistic Director Lisa Collins Vidnovic had much to offer. Her goal was to educate male dancers in a way that their partaking in dance would be viewed just the same as if they were on a baseball team, as dance requires just as much, if not more, discipline, strength, and athleticism. “They are having classical training,” Collins Vidnovic said, “Leave the word ‘ballet’ out of it because no one understands what that is.” Beyond discipline, strength, and athleticism, artistry is required of dancers. All of the above was accomplished with Moriaky, which will leave any audience member knowing, without a shadow of a doubt, that boys can and should dance.
A short break followed, and the gears were switched when the contemporary work Depart began. It was choreographed by alumni, Sarah Mettin and previously presented at Metropolitan’s Variations/Collaborations Concert this past March. This particular setting offered a fresh perspective of the piece. Beginning in silence and low-lighting, the dancers adopted an intense outer focus. Partnering in the work did not consist of just one dancer supporting the other. It was instead an interchangeable relationship of give and take and push and pull. The dancers took risks in this type of partnership, working in a safety net of total trust in those around them.
After Mettin’s Depart came the work of Ashley Walton, a contemporary ballet titled Aloft. With countless technicolored balloons and costumes, dancers created a rainbow on stage, with joyful and light-hearted movement.
I asked Collins Vidnovic her intent in exposing her dancers to various styles and choreographers, and her answer was focused on both the present and the future. “I want everyone to feel like there is a place for them in the dance world personally,” she says, “Having a classical foundation gives them the freedom to do what they want and have the control to place their body anywhere they want to.” A well-rounded education is essential to the success of a dancer, and dancers at Metropolitan Ballet Academy are a direct product of that notion.
Colors was the section to close out Showcase, and choreographer Lisa Collins Vidnovic found inspiration in a book of abstract paintings. Each segment highlighted the learned skills of each age group, with the respective dance named after a different color. The purpose of this was to have the dancers look back on their time at the school, and see which colors they had the opportunity to move through. The close of the show was a chance to see each individual come together and take part in the curtain call to end all curtain calls. Finale miraculously brought every dancer to the stage to bow with their particular group, with each group making room for the next after their short contribution, creating the illusion of a continuously moving, well-oiled machine.
It is easy to become entangled in the stresses of life as an artist, but not one dancer exhibited hesitation in their artistry. All reservations were set aside in this performance, with dancers who took the time to breathe life into their movement, stretching the length of the music to its fullest extent. Dancing for the love of it was the goal, and it was completely evident here from start to finish.
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