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Showcase to feature faculty choreography

Published: Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Updated: Tuesday, September 24, 2013 10:09

Not often do college dance majors get the chance to perform original choreography specifically designed for them.

For Point Park dancers, that is a reality through the Conservatory Dance Company at Point Park University faculty showcase, which opens this weekend.

The showcase, choreographed by full-time Point Park faculty members, will run for two weekends from Feb. 22 to March 3 at the George Rowland White Performance Studio. There will be performances at 8 p.m. on Fridays, at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Saturdays, and at 2 p.m. on Sundays.

"As with any performance that we do, [the faculty showcase] is meant to challenge and inspire the dancers," said Dance Department Chair and professor Susan Stowe in her Lawrence Hall office on Monday.

The faculty showcase takes place every spring semester, and this year's performances will include choreography from five faculty members: Nicolas Petrov, Kiesha Lalama, Peter Merz, Ron Tassone and Garfield Lemonius.

The choreographers held auditions last fall for dancers of all years and concentrations, and the cast lists went up at the end of the semester.

Since returning to Point Park for the spring semester, about 50 selected dancers have been rehearsing with the choreographers pieces that range from contemporary ballet, to modern, to traditional jazz.

"The faculty know the dancers really well because they work with them on a daily basis, so they know how to push [the dancers] outside their comfort zones and the kind of material they need to work on to improve artistically and technically,"Stowe said.

The piece by Petrov is a shortened version of a full-length ballet that he had previously choreographed, and the other four pieces are new numbers choreographed with the dancers in mind.

Sophomore dance major Jada Paladino, who is concentrating in jazz, is performing in Tassone's jazz piece in the faculty showcase.

"[Tassone] is so good. His style is exactly what I like to do. It's very traditional jazz —very showy and Broadway [with] lots of kicks and big personality," said Paladino in the Lawrence Hall lobby on Wednesday.

The fast-paced, high-energy number keeps Paladino and the other dancers kicking and leaping throughout the piece with "nonstop energy."

"It's crazy intense," she said.

For Paladino, the biggest challenge in the jazz piece is the partnering section. Working together with a partner and tackling difficult lifts are some of the skills she has learned through being involved in this showcase.

Freshman Sara Spizzichini is a dance major with a concentration in modern, and she is dancing in two pieces in the faculty showcase.

The piece by choreographer Lemonius is a contemporary dance to classical string music.

"It's about blood memories, kind of like an overview of one's life as well as past events. It shows throughout the piece different facets of what one goes through — people you come across [and] relationships," said Spizzichini in the Lawrence Hall lobby on Thursday.

Bright red costumes will enable the dancers to embody the "blood memories" theme.

The dancers have been able to contribute to the choreography of the piece as well, which is a valuable learning experience for dancers hoping to work for professional dance companies after graduation.

"It teaches you to pick up on things quickly, which is a good skill to have definitely," Spizzichini said. "[Lemonius] is getting us used to changing things constantly [and] not becoming stagnant with the choreography because it's always subject to change."

The second piece Spizzichini is involved in is choreographed by Lalama, and it is also a contemporary piece.

Lalama's piece focuses on relationships and the resulting emotions and heartbreak that a person experiences during his or her life.

Spizzichini took advantage of the opportunity to dance in two pieces and learned from the choreographers as well as the other dancers.

"It's very humbling, being one of the only freshmen," she said. "Throughout the rehearsal processes, both [Lalama] and [Lemonius] kind of give you tips for when you go out into the real world and audition or you become part of a company…You have to not only respect your director, but you have to respect each other as well to make a piece come together and work effectively."

Stowe hopes that other Point Park students, faculty members and family members will come to see a faculty showcase performance to see the result of the hours of time and work went into preparing for the production.

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