By David F. Pendrys
Editor’s Note: This performance was viewed via live stream. The recap is presented essentially in layman’s terms both to make it accessible and due to the author’s limited technical knowledge.
The Hartt School Dance Division put on their annual end of the year show a few weeks ago, and covered a lot of ground in the vibrant field of dance.
Serenade (Ballet) (first movement)
Serenade is a ballet choreographed originally by George Balanchine, accompanied by Serenade for Strings in C Major by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. The Regisseur was Victoria Simon and staging was done by Hilda Morales with lighting by Ronald Bates.
The Friday performance was put on by Emily Aubrey, Hannah Belrose, Hannah Collins, Courtney Costa1, Michelle Cuddy, Kayla Hamilton, Katie Judge, Cassandra Laskowski, Allison Long, Daniella Parisot, Fern Pasternak, Marielena Quintanar, Allesandra Rinaldo, Mollie Sharples, Lauren Turley, Jasmine Urban, and Samantha Watson.
The opener, more traditional in nature was splendid and beautiful. Hartt’s notes indicate it was the first Balanchine created in America. Ballet is impressive not only for the aesthetics, but because of the smooth looking transitions between various dancing and leaps, to the complicated balancing on pointe.
The dancers were clad in white gowns as they slowly moved in unison with kicks following. A few of the group broke away to run around, bust most on stage continued to move as one. The troupe separated into various subgroups and rows, taking on different positions fluidly. Eventually a soloist entered and leapt across the stage with great vigor as others began their leaping too. A fourth subgroup commenced pointe work soon as well.
A soloist returned to prominence with a sequence of jumps as the music picked up speed and she soon spins across stage before exiting. Various other elements followed from the main group assembled. Later, they overall group parts so one member’s stunning pirouette can be showcased. The dancers would all turn together. Soon two soloists entered and spun across the stage before disappearing again. In a rapid movement, many ballerinas went diagonally before later the group became a line with each bowing out and running off stage.
Quite the start to the night.
Shift (Modern Dance)
The second piece of the night turned in the modern direction with choreography from Adam Baruch. Background music consisted of Ahull and Catalina 1943 from Loscil. Mary Sheldon handled the costumes, and Hartt Dance Director Stephen Pier was the Rehearsal Director.
The cast of performers consisted of Joseph Beltre, Calvin Bittner, Katie Bittner, Hannah Collins, Abby Corr, Darrigan Demattos, Frances Fuller, Ty Graynor, Marjorie Gross, Isaac Lerner, Jordan Lindmood, Sarah Nulsen, and Mollie Sharples.
This modern dance piece, premiered that weekend, was extensive and involved numerous lifts. It reminded me of Hartt’s performance of Limon’s “Psalm”, not because the pieces are similar in content, but due to the length and numerous transitions involved. The Hartt Dancers are well equipped for these complex intricate performances though as was proven again with “Shift”.
Clad in slacks and shirts two groups of men and women went through various elaborate and well timed movements bowing, swaying and spinning. One detachment moved forward, and another moved backward. Two other groups moved around the edge of the stage, leaving a man and a woman to struggle alone in the center. The others backed into the darkness as the pair continued to move slowly in all sorts of maneuvers and positions intertwining together. Many returned and there was an asymmetry as no one was doing the same thing. The featured pair interact while the rest moved, but the man was soon dragged off .
An apparent tug of war ensued and soon four dancers were on stage moving somewhat in unison. The two in the back stood and the two in front moved to the ground before the other two joined them on the floor. This all occurs as ominous music with bells repeat over and over. The piece featured many turns throughout it.
Eventually more dancers entered and many grabbed hands. Three pairs remained doing the same shared turn. These three pairs were featured on stage for quite a while. Later, blue light bathed the stage and Three more performers arrived creating three groups of three. Many interactions followed before they divide again eventually resulting in three groups of two with a lone dancer in the back. This dancer is the only one on stage moving along the ground seemingly strained. The bells stopped, but an eerie melody followed.
After some of the cast exit, two groups of three assembled only to pull at each other and balance. Five of the group picked up the remain person and carried them. Two of the six tread to the center as a seventh and eighth person enter very slowly. Four others stood still to the side holding hands as the occurred Even more enter slowly as a pas de deux continues on the other side of the stage. The rest are all joining hands as the pairs dance continues with great leg movement. The two eventually separated and then rejoined in the corner. Everyone else moved as the mass moves across the stage pulling against each other and then moving apart. One dancer laid on the ground, while two women and a man played off each other. The three continued moving until pausing as others enter. The person on the floor soon would rise. The aforementioned man did a big lift of one of the women followed by another of the women exits preceding a large group entering around the man. The two other women involved ran from the stage hurriedly. Four of the group moved with different elements but in timed precisely. More dancers maneuvered around the stage to the back. They exit and one woman returns bathed in a spotlight, as others slowly enter from the side. she continued her solo as the rest joined hands in the back. She ended up on the ground as the group all approached her with arms together. She then joined the group and everyone held hands, except for a lone woman moving to the back as the music wrapped up and the group exited.
In the Mix (Modern Dance)
Another piece which premiered the weekend of Hartt Dances featured choreography by Katie Stevinson-Nollet, music by Andrew Bird and costume design by Mary Sheldon.
The dancers were comprised of Joseph Beltre, Ruby Cabbell, Christopher Henry, Jillian Foley, Sarah Nulsen, Mikaela Papasodero, Daniella Parisot, Samiyah Parramore, Victoria Sames, and Cameron Whitney.
This lighter dance consists of a roaring 20’s flapper them, as the women characters are clad in dresses and feathers in their hair. Colorful tutus sit under the dresses. The male characters wear vests pants and derby hats. As a note, at least one of the “men” was played by a woman if not more. Stevinson-Nollet’s dances can involve a lot of energy, with leaps and rapid movement, but also a great deal of action at ground level with many different elaborate rolls. It is sometimes interesting to see just how much can be accomplished by dancers at stage level.
The fun began with a lone dancer entering. She moved to and rolled along the ground. Two more women entered and then a four and a fifth. They were trailed by two men in vests and derbies.Three of the dancers moved slowly while two more ran around. A third man entered and joins the running. Three of the group moved to the floor and rolled and stretched moving their legs rhythmically. The men move stiltedly but quickly and some handstand variants would soon follow.
A man and woman entered and powerfully moved across the stage, as three women in the back flitted around. Two exited, but more entered as the piece speeds up with dancers running on and off stage in succession. A man returned and threw some leaps followed by four women entering with two hopping as the others crawled. Soon all four are up and dancing and jumping around. As two exit again three returned and five dancers moved around together, turning and swaying to the music. Three eventually drop to the floor as others leave.
A man enters, spins and abruptly leaves. Three performers retreat to the back of the stage followed by a woman and man entering and continuing their elements soon joined by another woman entering with a split jump. The violin accompanying them all intensifies as does the movement .The music soon stops and they all collapse. One of the men returns and the violin resumes. Afterward four of the men and a woman roll around on the ground melodically.
Most of the cast end up back on stage. A man and woman danced around up front as the rest moved slowly out back. The man lifted and spun the woman, as the two danced together in a mix of period dancing combined with the modern dance element. Three of the ladies emerged from backstage with a table and carried it. There is spinning and pirouetting from the original pair. The woman leapt moving her bent legs behind her in the air in a nice jumps. The three with the bench returned and put it down. The man continues dances with another woman as the three bench carriers sit on the bench swaying to the beat. Eventually the man starts a solo while the three turn and balance on the bench in unison. A woman returns and dances with the man while the other three continue to use the bench as a platform to dance until the sequence concludes.
Later, one of the men rolls onto the stage, followed by a second. Four of the women return, performing their expressive elements in the background as the two men launch into more leaps and jumps before everyone slides to the floor. There is however eventually more spinning turns, resulting in five women and three men are on stage, either using the ground or standing in a largely rhythmic but spaced out effort in three rows.
They come back together into a unit with sporadic leaps before they retire to the back. Three women returned to the front and quickly jump and turn, while the rest grooved. The piece got wilder as two women and men move to the front, and three women move off stage leaping as an exit. More dancing continues on the ground, but eventually two men and two women are paired for lifts and well timed dancing. The rest returned to form a line and the pairs exited. By the end everyone is running around and nearly colliding. One of the men leaps across the stage powerfully and pirouettes as a second man enters and drums accompany them. A chaotic time follows until everyone exits the stage.
Cascades (Modern Ballet)
The modern ballet piece, premiered on the weekend, was choreographed by Norbert De La Cruz III (in collaboration with dancers, the show notes). The music drew from Devotchka, Jóhann Jóhannsson, David Lang, Nikos Kypourgos and was arranged by De La Cruz III. A voice over portion was provided by De La Cruz III & Victoria Sames. Costume design was also done by Mary Sheldon.
Six dancers received top billing in three pairings: Emory Campbell and Michelle Cuddy, Joseph Heitman with Victoria Sames, Samiyah Parramore & Kareem Lewis. The ensemble included Emily Aubrey, Lauren Bricca, Courtney Costa, Ruby Cabbell, Kayla Hamilton, Christopher Henry, Katherine Judge, Allison Long, Kelly O’Brien, Daniella Parisot, Fern Pasternak, Allesandra Rinaldo, Lauren Turley, and Samantha Watson.
As opposed to the traditional piece earlier, which was brighter, this is a darker piece, in terms of mood and coloration and such with a red and black motif.
The ballet begins in blackness with the cast of dancers lying on the stage. Soon one of them rises, turns and spins. Four more dancers walked across the stage, and more dancers rose as the lead dancer moved on pointe. Most of the ballerinas formed a corps and rose into the line. One of the dancers soon commenced a long turning sequence on pointe to the right of them.
Different factions broke apart and did a great deal of pointe work on their way off stage. A few dancers remained, a woman and a man faced each other. Two of the other dancers move in front of the pair as they embrace. The two turned gracefully, and later in the back a woman backed away on pointe as the man stood. The main two moved to the front and another dancer approached the man as much of the corps returned. The line of dancers stood on pointe as the main dancers posed as a chorus started up in the background music.
Two separate cadres of performers moved slowly with good timing. The right group went up on pointe while the rest turned together. Some moved asymmetrically on stage, while others headed elsewhere. Many moved to the floor, soon almost the entire assembly is on the ground. One woman stands to the left while five advanced to the front of the stage to sit on the age. The one woman danced pulling at her hair, seemingly being thrown about or struggling with something. The rest of the crops rose from the back, while the five remained up front. That five continued to work together as the rest of the performers maneuvered into various poses. The one main dancer leapt up as a man carried a limp woman and placed her down in spotlight. She danced on the floor as a man and woman engaged in a big pas de deux in back with huge lifts and turns. The rest of the company waited on the stage as this continued.
The main pair soon exit and the woman on the ground rose as two dancers move in front of her with leg balances. One pirouetted, and the two danced together as if in their own pas de deux before moving on pointe and rejoining the line. The dancer once on the ground now moved to the center. Others emerged from the side and danced together turning and bowing as they id. The moved around frantically as the men re-enter and spread apart leaving a few women in the middle all doing various techniques and leg elements. Soon two women are in back moving gracefully. Eventually the three men were center stage moving about as the women came back with various shifting movements. Dancers continued to come and go. There were some solid big leaps as a group of women exit. Chaos ensued and the violin music accompaniment got hectic. One woman headed to center stage briefly, as everyone returns. A chorus sounds as the woman sits on the edge of the stage facing a lone woman on pointe in the center of everyone. She remained sitting, the other remained standing. The rest were laying on the ground.
A man and woman moved into the center. She slid along the floor in a spin as two women circle. A pas de deux with an impressive split lift commenced and continued as the rest sit. She fell onto his back, he later turned her, then picked her up in another lift, and at one point she turns in a acrobatic flip. As he held her slowly everyone else exited and the pas de deux continues with just them including a pointe balance towards the end followed by does several turns with her in his arms. Suddenly an alarm clock sounded and dozens of pointe shoes were tossed on to the stage in a surprise ending.
Diversion of Angels (Modern)
This dance, performed by numerous groups, features choreography created by the great Martha Graham. The Regisseur was Miki Orihara and the Rehearsal Director was Ralph Perkins. Costume Design was by Martha Graham as the costumes didn’t depart from others. Lighting Design was credited as “after Jean Rosenthal.” The music was by Norman Dello Joio.
The dancers were credited as follows:
The Couple in White: Michelle Cuddy & Ty Graynor
The Couple in Red: Dana Mazurowski & Isaac Lerner
The Couple in Yellow: Eran Bugge (courtesy of the Paul Taylor Dance Company) & Kareem Lewis
Chorus: Calvin Bittner, Katie Bittner, Marjorie Gross, Allesandra Rinaldo, Lauren Turley
Bugge by the way is a Hartt alum who now performs with the renowned Paul Taylor Dance Company.
According to the notes Hartt provided:
“The dance follows no story. Its actions take place in the imaginary garden love creates for itself. The ballet was originally called Wilderness Stair. Martha Graham once described Diversion of Angels as three aspects of love: the white couple represents mature love in perfect balance; red, erotic love; and yellow, adolescent love.”
These three aspects were conveyed well by the performers as the Couple in White were elegant, and the other two pairs were faster and wilder.
As dramatic music plays, a man in tan and a woman in white embrace. Three other men enter shirtless and dance with great skill and leg movement in unison. Classical music filled the theater as four women, the chorus, in beige dress entered and the woman in white stood on tip toes swaying back and forth as the men encircled her. The lead man later held the woman.
A woman in red moved across the stage occasionally extending her legs slowly. Not long afterward a woman in yellow entered quickly spinning and furiously leaping joining with another man who dances. Soon the pair lie on the ground. Another man leapt around as a pair in back holds position. The woman in Yellow moved from one guy to the next, and was lifted by one and spun around over his head. The chorus returned and ran around the Woman in White. Four men entered and one launched with huge amplitude on his leap. The Woman in White advanced as the men do cartwheels around her as she spins on tip toes and later does a big leg loop.
The Woman in Red entered and balanced high. The Woman in Red held the high leg balance for a large amount of time as the men move around her, though she moved to the floor. Eventually she is back up but headed to the floor again joined by one guy. He held her over his knee as she stretched her legs out. She balanced her leg up and he grabbed her as she held position. She turned on tiptoes as she danced with him. She continued to spin across the stage twirling nicely. He held her sideways, as the the the of the dancers run around, the men jump, with big leg kicks, and the chorus leaves. The Woman in White and a man enter. Also the Woman in Red was held red up high as white balances. Red moves to the front and balances her leg.
All exited but the man and woman in white. She balanced as he rolls on the floor. Soon he held her balanced above him. They came together and embrace. Majestic balances followed either with a leg up or fully horizontal. She stood on him as he lays down. The chorus entered as does the Women in Red who does more high leg turns. The chorus turned in the background as Red attracted the attention of the man with her dancing, swaying, and leg work. Red would back away, and the other men reenter with big jumps as the beige clad chorus slowly moved. The chorus paired up with the men as the main man moves on stage. The men joined his move, side by side with leg extended. The Woman in Yellow then leapt across the stage and disappeared.
The Woman in White came back slowly with graceful turns and hops for a long duration. The men returned with various leaps, cartwheels, hops. White enters the stage again as does the Woman in Yellow leading the beige chorus. Yellow and the chorus moved on tip toes then balanced while the Woman in White balanced slowly.
The Woman in Yellow regained the focus of the audience, with three men and the chorus on stage. She and one of the men hopped around furiously. She leapt into a split leap moving her legs in mid air back and forth and then followed it with another huge jump. As the chorus and other men moved, some men were on the ground. The Woman in Red takes the stage again and balanced gradually. The Woman in White also came back and entered and balanced slowly. The Woman in Red held her position while White held a back scale balance as Red is on tip toes. The Woman in Red spun, and both spun before White goes to the ground. The chorus and men paired up as pleasant music played. The Woman in White and Woman in Red come together. The men twirl women over their head horizontally. The Woman and Yellow got lifted by a man as piano music rose. The Woman and Red took the stage and again and hoped around as the chorus also returns side leaping and scaling before running in a circle. The group of men also returned sideways leaping right off the stage. The Woman in White moved to the center and danced as she was surrounded by the men. One man remains, the Woman in Red flitted around but the Woman in White and that man stay in place as the piece ends.
[As a reference there are other performances of this piece by other dance groups online. It is not certain the choreography is exactly the same but assumed as such.]
The Hartt School also honored Enid Lynn at the performance by creating a scholarship in her honor. Lynn is the founder of Hartt’s Dance Division and was Director of the School of Hartford Ballet.