The USJ 5 x 5 Dance Festival

By David F. Pendrys

The University of Saint Joseph hosted another edition of it’s 5×5 Dance Festival on Friday and Saturday Oct 16 and 17th. The two night festival featured five different performances each night. The five on Saturday featured USJ’s own group, CCSU’s dance program, Exit 12, Ekklesia, and Dimensional Dance in a truly great mix. Admittedly there is less explanation of the specific elements as note taking in a darkened theater is not an exact science, but here is a summary for each.

The Movement Letters-University of Saint Joseph Dance Ensemble

Choreographed by student Alida Lamagna, the 5 segment piece was described in the notes as “an attempt to explore the the many aspects of individual lives from beginning to end, from careers to relationships and the everyday trials of life.” This was achieved splendidly, as the dancers transitioned from being born and rising from the stage, to working, and then onto later life. The ensemble worked in unison though it also let some soloists loose to do some more ambitious leaps and spins. It was graceful, sometimes chaotic, and well choreographed and executed. It is easy to be overwhelmed when there is a large group of dancers on stage at once, but that is part of the charm. It is intriguing seeing some grouped together doing their elements, only to have others break off into a big leap or some other element.

The Muses-Dimensional Dance

Six dancers performing Ruth Vesenka Lewis choreography did a stellar job. The piece was based on a painting called “The Days” located in the the Wadsworth Atheneum.

The conception was that one dancer dressed in black (Katie Schenker) was a “a painter” affected by her muses (Kirsten Glaser, Chloe Knopf, Jane Krantz, Matisse Madden, and Elisa Wharton) throughout the sequence. The five muses were clad in various colorful dresses, and all had their chances to shine either together, paired, or on their own dancing with Schenker. There was so much exemplary and elegant dancing throughout as they flitted across the stage, often throwing multiple turns.

The dances were sometimes one or two muses moving as Schenker did illustrating perhaps unity of thought. Other times, the dancers would move away from her and perform different elements, to me signifying the more random brainstorm or creative process. Their spins and leaps were of high quality, though their various movements in general were beautiful and active. The Muses was a great mix of design, staging, and of course implementation.

Dimensional Dance put up a promo video to give a feel for the piece.


A Loss of Self-Exit 12 Dance Company

The choreography of Winnie Berger came to life through the well performed dance of Berger, Maggie Napoli, Adrienne de la Fuente, Lisa Fitzgerald, and Debra Bona. Attired in dresses of colors varying from red to beige to black, the dancers worked together and apart. This dance clearly invoked pain and struggle at times and was solid. My notes and my memory fails me, which is the exact opposite of the dancer’s success. I am not even close to doing the dance justice. According to the notes, “Exit 12 supports and advances the notion that art heals, and is devoted to serving those who have been touched by conflict by expressing their stories.” There was clearly conflict in the performance.

Miserere Nobis-CCSU Dance Program

In black dresses, red socks, and wearing covering over their hair, the CCSU Dancers performed a complicated and downright different dance. The choreography was developed by Jennifer Muller, and was re-staged by Seiko Fujita. There are no leaps and jumps in this performance set to dramatic choral accompaniment. The dancers enter in small groups. A few drop to the ground scrubbing as others sway. They take dramatic steps, and at times do major leg turns. It is a slower piece that builds, at times, fast and other times it slows. Later, some of the dancers throw tantrums on the floor. The notes indicate “in an age of unspeakable conflict and cruelty, loss and grief, each of us asks for forgiveness for all of us.” That is certainly a vibe as it is clear the dancers are dealing with much. The costumes also unify the group, no one is dressed differently and no one’s hair is is even visible to differentiate the dancers. They are all one unit even if they take on different roles during the performance where timing was critical. I was impressed at their precision. Eventually there is a large number of dancers on stage at once and the dance surges.

Vivid-Ekklesia Contemporary Ballet

The ballet company closed things out with a flourish as they put on a wonderful ballet exhibition for the house complete with pointe work, leaps, some stunning lifts, as well as fluid movement through the stage set to choreography by Elizabeth McMillan.

There were many dancers going about their steps, but also a male and female pair who engage in a pas de deux. It does not seem that all is well though as a second man at one point enters and in an interesting development walks along as all the other dancers as they spin and dance, only to take center stage. Eventually he will also break into excellent elements, but not before he appears as more of an observer than a dancer.

The segment is a whirlwind. At times some dancers launch into huge turns at others the lifts are elegant and strong. There appears to be a struggle between the two men for the woman in some fashion, though the various other dancers are by no means just in the background as there is plenty happening. It was a great way to end the night with exquisite action.

While I regret missing Friday night’s performances, the five I did see all accomplished great art. I sincerely hope to see each group in action again at some point.

2 responses to “The USJ 5 x 5 Dance Festival

  1. David, Thank you for your thoughtful words about Dimensional Dance’s performance. It was a great weekend of dance in CT. Susan Murphy and others at St Joseph College worked so hard to pull of the 5×5 Dance Festival. We are so grateful. Ruth Lewis choreographer, Dimensional Dance

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