by David F. Pendrys
(Editor’s note. Apologies for both the simplistic description, and lack of technical knowledge. It is my hope that some recognition of the hard work done by these dancers is worth something even if I am not versed in the technical knowledge of dance. Also, this discussion is from memory so it is difficult to draw out a lot of details.)
On Sunday, two separate dance organizations at Sacred Heart University had performances. In the afternoon, the SHU Dance Ensemble took to the stage. The Ensemble accepts any student who is willing to join and work in the group and the choreography is all done by fellow students. The ensemble itself was a massive group and 26 separate dances were put on during the recital. Most of these were choreographed by Taylor Coughlin, Lindsay Cull, Julia Duque, Tina Fodera, Lauren Garizio, Allison Imhoff, Malaysia Johnson, Jenille McIntosh, Jillian Oliastro, Tanya Payne, Melanie Vollono, and Cristina Zangaglia.
The dance styles varied from modern to hip hop, to even Irish step dancing at one point. Most involved a large group of dancers on stage at once, and while several dancers were featured at times, there was a lot of group work, involving good timing to keep everything flowing, clearly a feat given the sheer number of performers out there. Of course the rhythmic leaps and jumps were there and plenty of balances as well. A lot was happening at once making taking it all in difficult but part of the fun, as there wasn’t much possibility of a dull moment.
The senior class choreographed their own dance, “Running from the Devil”. In that performance Cassandra Malz, Jenille McIntosh, Shannon Muscara, Stephanie Palermo, and Tanya Payne all performed together playing off each other. An alumni dance was held immediately after that featuring Jessica Berard, Kate Gallagher, Marissa Santopietro, Dana Kinlen, Olivia DeSanctis, and Gianna Colgero. The energetic finale, a throwback to the 90s and 2000s had to get a lot of people on stage at once, and then move them off to allow another group on, circling through numerous songs and culminating in “Wannabe” by the Spice Girls.
The SHU Dance Company, which members join through auditioning, took the stage at night in a salute to “The Movies.” They were joined at times by other dance groups when appropriate.
The performance opened with a dance based on “The Hunger Games” with the dramatic music flaring, and the dancers clad appropriately as they leapt around and acted out the struggles of Katniss and Peeta. This was followed by an expertly done version of “Apocalypse Now” including a depiction of helicopters by the dancers that was pulled off well despite the risk involved. The dances continued, later on the Irish Step Ensemble’s massively high impact performance set to I’m Shipping Up to Boston signified “The Departed.” After that, a slew of ballet dancers did their tribute to Black Swan expertly given they were performing, a performance, of a performance. A mix of dancers came together to mimic Michael Jackson set to Billie Jean and they captured the spirit well indeed. An elaborate and dramatic number set to Sky Fall featured a large number of performers all attired to look like they were wearing gowns. The dancers largely acted as two groups, one doing their elements ahead of the other producing a cascade effect. A class put on their version of “Chicago’s” Cell Block Tango dancing to the iconic musical, before the Hip Hop Ensemble put on Chim Chimney from “Mary Poppins.” The group, dressed of course as chimney sweeps, dance and swayed with their brooms, until the dance swiftly became Step In Time and got crazy complete with a faux Bert dancing around at their lead. Soon the performance as wrapping up with a Mission Impossible dance, which featured either tap or step dancers acting as “the enemy” and two modern dancers having to save a kidnapped ballerina, once freed however she and her allies dance away their enemies. It was a quite the site to see the various forms melded together in a tribute to the spy thriller.
Choreography-wise, Director of Dance Scott Aliberti handled the “Mission Impossible” and “The Departed” dances. Maria Cherniske handled the “Mary Poppins” and Michael Jackson tributes. Christina Coleman worked on the groups tributes to “The Giver”, “Black Swan,” “O’Brother Where Art Thou”, “Divergent” “Apocalypse Now”, and “The Hunger Games.” Plus, Emily Frangipane worked on “Burlesque”, “Skyfall”, and “Chicago.”
Audine Buffalino, Brianna Formicola, Caitlyn Goggin, Lindsay Cull, Elizabeth Florentine, Tina Fodera, Malaysia Johnson, Hannah Leeping, Katherine Paquette, Marissa Terrill, Caroline Tremblay, Geisa Wilkins, Brianna DiLeo, Marguerite Girandola, Megan Marcucci, and Amanda Sassu were student choreographers.