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CDE and Original Choreography

By Sarah Liebowitz; A&E Editor
On May 15, 2017


( Lto R) Elizabeth Morrisstte, Amara Decker
and Erica Morrissette

On May 12 and 13, PSU’s Contemporary Dance Ensemble will showcase original choreography by students and faculty. Both shows start at 7 p.m. in the Hanaway Theatre.

The show features works by three faculty members and four student choreographers. It also includes a piece choreographed by guest artist Katherine Hooper, the artistic director of BoSoma Dance Company.

Amanda Whitworth, PSU’s Director of Dance, choreographed a piece titled “It Ain’t That Deep.” The whimsical dance draws upon the styles of majorettes from the deep south, pride parades and Mardi Gras.

The combination is a result of serendipity. “On a YouTube search for music, I was listening to some jazz from the deep south, and the next thing that popped up was a video of the majorettes,” Whitworth said.

The end result is a high-energy dance with batons, wacky umbrellas and a guest appearance by Pemi the Panther. It is a little-known fact that Pemi the Panther has incredible dance skills, and she is quite handy with a baton.

The dancers learned the basics of baton twirling from Holly Blanchard, former Miss New Hampshire. Audience members seated near the front might even snag themselves a sweet treat.

In a very different work, “S C H Z P H R N” explores themes of schizophrenia. It is choreographed by faculty member Jacqui Young in collaboration with the dancers.

The piece shows a dancer’s transformation from healthy to schizophrenic. The six other dancers onstage represent her subconscious.

Young said she always uses social issues in her dances. “As a choreographer, I feel dance can explore some of the biggest social issues facing our time,” she said.

Inspiration for the piece came from the 2009 film “The Soloist," and from Young’s grandmother, who was diagnosed as borderline schizophrenic. “In her day, they did not have a lot of information on what caused the mental disease,” Young said. “Honestly, today, there are still many doctors, psychiatrists and psychologists debating whether environment or genetics is to blame for the disease or disorder.”

Young said she hopes the piece will make people uncomfortable and bring awareness to the issue. This awareness is not restricted to the audience. “This also carries over to the dancers in the class,” said Young. “They can become passionate about a cause and present it for discussion and debate.”

Guest artist Katherine Hooper choreographed a piece called “Adrenaline.” Her company BoSoma Dance has a connection to Plymouth State because Lindsay Jarvis, a PSU alumna, is now a senior dancer at BoSoma Dance. The company also performed and taught at the PSU Dance Premier in 2015.

Hooper describes “Adrenaline” as “physically demanding, ever changing patterns of space and time, level and dynamic inspired by the rhythms and themes of the music.” The music pieces featured in dance are “Control” by Shifted and “Frantic” by Marcel Fengler.

The dance explores “the idea of the body being controlled and inspired by the rhythm of our heart, our environmental surroundings and social setting,” Hooper said.

Hooper was impressed by the passion and dedication of the PSU dancers, who she said were clearly influenced by Amanda Whitworth’s guidance and inspiration.

“Their commitment to the process and respect for the art of dance made our working process successful and fulfilling,” Hooper said.

One of the student pieces is choreographed by Molly Henry, a sophomore elementary education major. Titled “Dark Waltz to Light,” this ballet-contemporary piece is about persevering through dark times, because the serenity of morning will always come.

The dance features Hayley Westenra’s songs “Dark Waltz,” and the intro to “Listen to the Wind.” Hayley Westenra is an opera singer, and former member of Celtic Woman. The two songs featured are from her contemporary albums.

“The song and Hayley's voice are so hypnotizing in this beautiful and captivating way, which is how I feel when I see really good ballerinas on stage,” Henry said.

This is Henry’s first time choreographing a large group piece. “It’s been incredible to see what was just ideas in my head and illegible drawings in a notebook come to life in my dancers’ bodies and on the stage,” she said.

The other pieces in the show are choreographed by faculty member Lenore Sousa and student choreographers Sophia Shay, Lauren LaBreck and Kelsie Steil.


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