POUGHKEEPSIE, NY – The Vassar Repertory Dance Theatre (VRDT), the college's resident student dance troupe, will present its 25th annual weekend of gala performances on Saturday, March 3, at 8:00 p.m., and Sunday, March 4, at 3:00 p.m. at the Bardavon Opera House in downtown Poughkeepsie.
[Left: Senior Caitlyn Teres performs "Bluebird Variation" from The Sleeping Beauty, which will be performed at the Bardavon Opera House Gala. Photo: Laura Weyl] Tickets for either concert are $10 for general admission and $7 for senior citizens and students. Tickets by phone are available through Ticketmaster (845-454-3388), and for Bardavon members through the box office (845-473-2072). Tickets can also be purchased in person at the Bardavon box office, and through Vassar's Office of Campus Activities (845-437-5370).
The 2006-2007 academic year marks perhaps the most significant leap forward to date for the Vassar dance program, with the re-opening last September of the college's Kenyon Hall, which after a two-year multimillion renovation now features highly upgraded dance studios and the elegant new Frances Daly Fergusson Dance Theater [further details below.]
FEATURED CHOREOGRAPHY AT THE BARDAVON CONCERTS
Among the highlights of this year's performances will be Songs of the Disinherited, the signature 1972 work of the acclaimed African-American choreographer Donald McKayle, who in the past year has also been a resident choreographer at Vassar. Songs of the Disinherited is a small masterpiece in four sections that plumbs the depths of racial memory and emerges exalted. The third section, a woman's solo entitled Angelitos Negros, has been critically appraised as one of the all-time great women's modern dance solos and has been performed by renowned female solo artists worldwide.
For the Bardavon performances, dance department chair Jeanne Periolat Czula has reconstructed four favorite Variations from great ballets of Marius Petipa including Don Quixote, The Sleeping Beauty, Raymonda, and Swan Lake for four of the company's ballet dancers. She has also restaged her ever-popular Study, a wry commentary on academic life, which premiered in 1991.
Above: Sophomores Cameron Lussier and Marina Hitosugi-Levesque in "Treaty" by Kathy Wildberger, also from this year's Bardavon Opera House Gala repertoire. Photo: Laura Weyl.
Other contributing faculty choreographers include Steve Rooks, who is presenting a selection of favorites from his repertoire, and Kathy Wildberger, who has restaged her work Treaty – a movement essay on the plight of First Nations People. Guest Artists Abby Saxon and Martha Tobias have collaborated on the finale: Motown a la Mode, a rousing tribute to some of the greatest Motown hits of all time. Current student choreographers include Liza Hoffman, Kaitlin Butler, Maya Lau, Martha Leonard, Cameron Lussier, Dwayne Brown, and Leah Wilks, and Vassar alumna Elizabeth Frankel is a guest choreographer.
ABOUT THE VASSAR REPERTORY DANCE THEATRE (VRDT)
Vassar Repertory Dance Theatre, under the direction of Visiting Instructor in Dance Paul Mosley, gives Vassar students the opportunity to perform classic dance works from the ballet and modern repertoire, as well as new choreography by faculty, guest artists, and the students themselves. By allowing students the freedom to create, develop, and present their own new dance works under the guidance of recognized artists in the field, VRDT provides a unique dance experience for the company, as well as for audience members.
ABOUT THE NEW/IMPROVED VASSAR DANCE FACILITIES IN KENYON HALL
Kenyon Hall is the longtime home of the Vassar dance program, and from its opening in 1934 through the early 1980s the building was actually the hub of physical education and athletics at the college. With the brand new Kenyon renovations (which also included new high-tech classrooms, and improved facilities for the college's volleyball and squash teams), Vassar now not only showcases three sizeable and fully reappointed dance studios, but a dynamic new 5,700 square-foot dance theater has risen from the excavation of the college's former swimming pool.
The Frances Daly Fergusson Dance Theater, named for the college's recently retired president, features a fully sprung 36' x 26' dance stage with surrounding wing space, raked seating for 244 people, and professional-quality lighting, sound, and theater control systems. The architects Gluckman Mayner thoughtfully preserved the character and numerous key features of the historic space, from its tile blocks and custom lighting fixtures, to updating the unifying barrel vault ceiling with acoustically absorbing plaster. Even the excavated swimming pool was maximized, to hold (and hide) the new air conditioning system beneath the terraced seating.
The two largest of Vassar's three updated dance studios now measure 2,650 square-feet (the other is 1,165), providing central rehearsal and warm-up space for the VRDT. New floor and acoustical ceilings, enhanced audio-visual systems, and new barres, mirrors, and lighting are among the studio improvements students and faculty now enjoy. Performers who have completed warm-ups or rehearsals in the upstairs studios also now have easy access to the downstairs theater, via new common areas.
Also, never before has Vassar had appropriate facilities to host major touring companies. Adjacent to the Fergusson Dance Theater, a new annex includes a rehearsal/"green room," with adjoining women's and men's changing rooms, a loading dock for scenery or set building materials, and costume-making, office, and storage spaces.
ABOUT THE VASSAR COLLEGE DANCE PROGRAM
The Department of Dance offers a non-major, elective course of study at Vassar (http://dance.vassar.edu). The faculty consists of three full-time and two part-time teachers, with three Adjunct Artists who serve as accompanists, offer musical direction, and compose and/or perform with the student company. Courses for academic credit are offered in modern dance technique (beginner through advanced), classical ballet technique (beginner through intermediate IV including pointe and adagio when suitable), and jazz (beginner through intermediate). In addition, biennially the department also offers intermediate Graham technique/repertory, and annually offers two lower level survey/technique courses that include the history of dance in western civilization. Academic credit is also offered to students who successfully audition for Vassar Repertory Dance Theatre (VRDT).
The department's Master Class program annually invites at least one ballet and one modern expert to campus in addition to two people in other areas of dance. This program attempts to broaden the dancers' experience in technique (master classes), choreography and improvisation (workshops), as well as their objective knowledge of dance history, dance criticism, physics and/or anatomy of dance (lectures). Some of our recent guest artists have included, Donald McKayle, Anna Kisselgoff, Irina Kolpokova, Arthur Mitchell, Helene Alexopoulos, Gregory Hines, Kenneth Laws, Donald Byrd, Edward Villella, Ronald K. Brown, Irene Dowd, Allegra Kent, Gelsey Kirkland, Pilobolus w/Adam Battlestein, Suzanne Farrell, Mummenschantz, John Meehan, Eldar Aliev, Deborah Jowitt, Bill T. Jones, Pascal Rioult and Craig Salstein.
ABOUT THE BARDAVON OPERA HOUSE
Located mid-way between Albany and New York City, the Bardavon Opera House – opened in 1869 as the Collingwood Opera House and renamed in 1923 – is the oldest continually operating theater in New York State and among the oldest in the nation.
For more information about the Vassar Repertory Dance Theatre's gala weekend of performances, call the Vassar College Dance office at (845) 437-7470. Individuals with disabilities requiring accommodations should contact the Bardavon box office as far in advance as possible, at (845) 473-2072.
Vassar College is a highly selective, coeducational, independent, residential liberal arts college founded in 1861.