Dance students showcase season’s worth of progress in Sunday gala

Festival dancer Lucas Bilbro leaps in Carnahan-Jackson Dance Studio. Bilbro’s “Tango bramare” will be one of five choreographic workshop pieces performed in the Student Gala Sunday in the Amp. Photo by Michelle Kanaar.

Workshop II dancers pose on the Carnahan-Jackson Dance Studio porch. Festival, Apprentice and Workshop II dancers will also perform at the Student Gala. Photo by Eric Shea.

Ballet shoes are painted red in the costume shop for the Workshop II dancers who will perform Maris Battaglia’s “Red Shoes” in Sunday’s Student Gala. Photo by Michelle Kanaar.

Rabab Al-Sharif | Staff Writer

Chautauqua School of Dance students will show that they can do more than ballet at the season’s final Student Gala.

The performance at 2:30 p.m. Sunday in the Amphitheater will be a culmination of the students’ summer work.

Apprentice, Festival and Workshop II dancers will show their versatility, performing everything from a George Balanchine work to hip-hop.

The program will begin with “Mozart,” a short, joyful ballet. School of Dance Associate Director Maris Battaglia choreographed the piece performed by all 21 Workshop dancers.

Next, audiences will get a chance to see five student-choreographed pieces from the Choreographic Workshop.

Workshop dancers will perform another ballet choreographed by Battaglia, called “Tango.”

Steven Bianchi, a former student of Battaglia, composed the music for the piece.

“He had to make a choice when he was 15 between ballet and music, and he chose music,” she said.

Chautauqua Dance Associate Artistic Director Mark Diamond’s “Foresight” is danced to the first and third movements of Philip Glass’ Violin Concerto No. 1.

The contemporary piece is a loose interpretation of the Iliad from the viewpoint of Cassandra, a princess given the gift of prophecy by an infatuated Apollo, Diamond said. When Cassandra rejected Apollo, he cursed her so no one would believe her prophecies.

The dramatic ballet was also performed in the first gala and MSFO performance.

Then, the program will divert from ballet with two pieces choreographed by Jon Lehrer, founder of Buffalo, N.Y.-based modern dance company LehrerDance.

Lehrer created “Flock” and “Strange Days” for the students.

Birds inspired “Flock,” Lehrer said. He was interested in exploring how they fly, moving together and separating.

Lehrer, who is known for his athletic style of modern dance, said the piece looks at the more lyrical side of that athleticism.

“Strange Days” is a comedic piece that calls for the students to explore the extremes of different emotions.

“I decided to do this piece with these kids that combines the athletic LehrerDance style with a comedic flavor to it,” he said.

When teaching modern to ballet dancers, Lehrer said at first they may be slightly uncomfortable, but once they understand it, they do well.

“Ballet dancers have that base technique that you can’t take away,” he said. “You never have to worry about their technique not being there.”

Lehrer does not usually work with students who have had such strong ballet training.

“It’s almost like coming in with a blank canvas,” he said. “I can paint all these crazy colors on them, so to speak.”

Students will also show that they can let loose with two hip-hop routines choreographed by Rachel Humphrey, LehrerDance dancer and former student of Battaglia.

Festival and Apprentice dancers will perform “We Run the Night,” with music by T-Pain, Nicki Minaj and Havana Brown, while the Workshop students will perform “Titanium,” with music by Sia and David Guetta.

Workshop dancers will perform “The Red Shoes” and “Pas de Trois,” both choreographed by Battaglia.

“Red Shoes” is based on the 1948 film about a young ballerina torn between the man she loves and her dream to become a prima ballerina. Brian Easdale’s music from the original soundtrack accompanies the ballet.

“Pas de Trois” is a short trio with music by Giuseppe Verdi and danced by Workshop II dancers.

The gala will end with the Festival dancers’ performance of George Balanchine’s “Serenade,” restaged by répétiteur Patricia McBride, NCDT associate artistic director.

The piece, which the American Ballet premiered in 1935, was the first ballet Balanchine choreographed in America.

“It’s still current, it’s still a challenge for the dancers today,” McBride said.

It calls for a strong corps de ballet, she said.

“The corps — they work as hard as the principals,” she said. “They really have to breathe together, to feel together.”

“Serenade” begins subtly with measured, delicate movements and magical lighting, McBride said.

“The audience just gasps. There are a lot of images that you don’t forget,” she said.

The movements are minimal but still require a lot of skill on the dancers’ part, NCDT Artisic Director Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux said. The quality of the simple, deliberate movements must be just right, and the musicality spot on.

“I really think that’s why Balanchine did that as his first work on students in America,” he said, “because he wanted them to move differently.”