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Muhlenberg College Reset: New Dances concert, Nov 18-19

Muhlenberg College senior dancers share their experiences through movement, as the Muhlenberg Theatre & Dance Department presents “Reset: New Dances,” Nov. 18-20 in the college’s Baker Theatre. Muhlenberg staged two outdoor concerts in the spring of 2021, but “Reset” will be the first concert in the college’s indoor performance spaces since before the pandemic.

Artistic director Megan Flynn says the concert will mark a return to familiar spaces but will also highlight the dramatic transformations the artists have experienced in recent months. She views it as a fresh start for the dance program.

“We’re coming back to campus,” Flynn says. “We’re hitting the reset button. We’re going to ask, ‘What’s new? What’s possible?’ We don’t need to follow the old standard ways of working. I’m not looking to return. I don’t think it’s possible for artists to go back to the way things were.”

Most especially, she says, “Reset” represents a new day in the dancers’ ability to gather as a company, all together in the same studio — an important post-pandemic milestone.

“The reset also includes the process of getting there,” Flynn says. “There’s a reset in our ability to show up for each other and to give feedback to each other and cheer each other on in the making and the questioning.”

This gathering has only been possible, Flynn says, because of the great care the choreographers and dancers have taken in the rehearsal process to be mindful of the ongoing pandemic.

Each of the works has a unique movement profile, with choreographers taking inspiration from modern, contemporary, jazz, and improvisation, as well as fusions of aesthetics from step dancing, ballroom, African, musical theater and ballet.

Choreographer Allison Goldman was inspired to create her piece — which she describes as “contemporary with groove influences” — after reading Jen Sincero’s book “You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life.” Her work takes choreographic influence from her own journey towards self-acceptance, as well as from the experiences of her dancers.

“My piece is about entering into a new era of life and learning to love myself for the foreseeable future,” Goldman says. “It’s about changing the internal monologue to think and talk more positively about ourselves, and learning to appreciate and love every part of ourselves.”

Through her choreography, Arianna Tilley celebrates her identity as a black woman and the identities of her dancers in her modern fusion piece.

“It is a self-driven renewal of who we are as black individuals and a reinvention of what it means to be Black and Proud and what it means to be a community,” Tilley says. “This piece isn’t just for the audience, but for the dancers who have a lot to say and a lot to be proud of.”

In her contemporary jazz-style work, Arianna Cacioppo tells the story of her personal growth as a woman. Her work embodies the reclaiming of how the female body is perceived.

“My piece is exploring the female experience of having little agency over your body and how it is perceived,” she says. “My entire cast is female-identifying and has been amazing about engaging with me on this journey exploring female sexuality and empowering themselves and each other.”

Other featured choreographers include Danielle Barrett, Emily Leandro, Kate McCowan, Sarah O’Sullivan, and Danica Schofer. Junior Gianna Carnevalino serves as the associate artistic director. Paul E. Theisen Jr. designs lights, and Lex Gurst designs costumes.

In addition to providing a fresh start for the dancers, Flynn says she hopes “Reset” will offer audience members a chance to re-engage with live performances in a new way.

“This reset of returning to the theater perhaps will change the way that the audience is experiencing live art,” Flynn says. “We all need a moment of clarity to see what we didn’t see before.”

“Reset: New Dances” runs Nov. 18-20 in the Baker Theatre, Trexler Pavilion for Theatre & Dance, Muhlenberg College, 2400 Chew St., Allentown.

Performances are Thursday and Friday, Nov. 18-19, at 8 p.m.; and Saturday, Nov. 20, at 2 and 8 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults; $8 for patrons 17 and under; and $8 for students, faculty, and staff of all LVAIC colleges.

Tickets and information are available at 484-664-3333 or muhlenberg.edu/dance.

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