By David F. Pendrys
(Editor’s Note: Due the sheer number of dancers, they are not listed, but the choreographers are noted. Also, notes are taken in a darkened theater as the performance is underway and thus can be incomplete.)
FAIRFIELD, CT- As they do every year, the Sacred Heart University Dance Ensemble performed their Spring Finale Saturday afternoon at The Edgerton Center.
Twenty separate dances were performed covering ground from modern dance, to hip hop, to hybrid elements, to tap, and other surprises. Some of the dances involved a relative small number of dancers, others put dozens on stage at once or rotated them in or out. The spectacle in part of these performances is how so many dancers interact with each other at once in a unified manner to make it all work.
“She. Be. Free.” was a modern piece choreographed by Kari Williams to open the show up. “AfroBeat” took went in a decidedly different direction thanks to the choreography of Winnie Victor and Maria Ogundolani. “SHU State of Mind” was choreographed by Kristen Field and featured a large tap sequence set to two different versions of “New York” by Alicia Keys.
The show returned to a modern piece with “Afraid” choreographed by Amanda Balesano and was followed by the potent “DYMMAA” choreographed by Lizzie Fleitas. After that, “I Lived” choreographed by Taylor Coughlin featured the final tap number of the day set to One Republic’s “I Lived” and provided a different feel that the previous tap piece.
The stage was then turned over to Sacred Heart’s Gymnastics team an they combined a dance routine with tumbling in a performance choreographed by team members Alexa Brisson, Steph Cooney, and Nicole Licata.
Act 1 closed with “Caribana Mix” choreographed by Malaysia Johnson and Shantel Morris which involved a large number of dancers all at once, all carrying flags which they pulled out at opportune times amidst the fast action.
When Act 2 began, a familiar piece to many, the “Cell Block Tango” from Chicago was performed to the choreography of Melissa Ruel and Jamie Fregeau. The dancers clad in the costumed reminiscent of the hit musical were divided up into six who portrayed the leads and an accompanying group. Each lead had a few dancers with them as they went through their own segment of the song. Each lead character had different dance elements being invoked, i.e. one group was performing ballet, others brought in other styles.
The mood turned serious with “Fix You: In Memory of Susan McDonough.” This piece in honor of a parent who had lost their battle with cancer, and in honor of cancer victims and survivors overall was choreographed by Julia Duque. It was introduced by an inspirational video with the dancers speaking about what the dance was about. Clad in flowing light colored dresses, the dancers moved to Coldplay’s “Fix You” in a beautiful and appropriate dance filled with symbolism.
“How Long” choreographed by Kristen Kamenides featured a guitar backdrop and at times brought out some nice leaps in unison from the numerous dancers performing together. “Into You” changed the pace again set to Ariana Grande’s “Into You” choreographed by Cristina Zangaglia. A large number of the ensemble were able to let loose in the high energy set.
“Beside You” choreographed by Megan Tottenham followed and featured another large group number including some high level leaps. “Over You” would follow with the choreography of Laina Iuele and Marissa Milazzo
“Fusion of Rhythm” choreographed by Jessica Berard was a fast moving hip hop number which also featured a variety of impressive close quarters dance as the group did their elements with little distance between each other throughout.
“Bolly Folk” choreographed by Harshal Varpe went straight Bollywood with a super high energy sequence including numerous solos. Costumes were designed by Nicole Jablonski
Burn it Up choreographed by Alex Diagonale featured two sides of dancers facing off against each other.
“The Rose” slowed things down and was choreographed by Megan Tottenham, Debbie Parlow, and Stefanie Waldron. Tottenham was the lone dancer and she was clad as a flower moving across the stage in a flowing dress, engaging in various elements including long turning spins, leaps, and jumps.
“Senior Dance 2017 choreographed by Julia Duque and Cristina Zangaglia featured the seniors and a variety of backup dancers set to a powerful Beyonce medley.
“I Wanna Dance with Somebody” choreographed by Julia Duque, Cristina Zangaglia, Samantha Boyle, Laurel Passaretti, and Susannah Jones was the traditional final number where the entire corps of dancers slide onto and off the stage while working in unison. A complicated effort to say the least. The finale was set to the song of the same name by Whitney Houston.
With that the many members of the SHU Dance Ensemble had succeeded in showcasing a mix of great dance from the students running a gamut of styles and music.