Dance concert will showcase students’ talent

Beginning tonight at 7:30 p.m., Scales Main Stage Theatre will be filled with the rhythmic clicking of tap shoes and the shimmer of hot stage lights off gold-embroidered tutus.

The Wake Forest Dance Company and department of theatre and dance presents the Fall Faculty/Guest Artist Dance Concert tonight through Dec. 3 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 4 at 2 p.m.

The show opens with a ballet piece from the wedding scene of La Bayadere, staged by faculty members Brantly Shaprio and Chris Martin, both former professional ballet dancers.

“It’s a rare pleasure as a teacher or a ballet master when you’re watching something that you’ve been involved with, or set, where you can actually be taken away by the performance,”  Martin said.  “That is what happens to me in the Fall Concert. I am overwhelmed by how much ownership the dancers take, by their unexpected personalities and inspired qualities.”

“La Bayadere,” which Martin dubs a “menacing, technical monster” of a work is a three-act, classical ballet set in the Royal India of the past.

Sophomore Emma Scott is one of the seven ballerinas featured in the piece.

“My favorite part is when I’m on stage in the gorgeous tutu, with the lights shining, and I catch a glimpse of someone else I’m dancing with.  We smile and just share the moment,” Scott said. “It makes me realize how much I enjoy what I’m doing.”

Over 40 Dance Company members appear in the Fall Concert, each of whom comes from a unique dance background.  The Fall Concert’s program reflects this diversity with a variety of genres, including tap, modern and jazz.

“I love performing with Dance Company,” said senior Emily Kuo.  “It truly feels like we’re a family.  I love how we’re connected by this one thing that we all love.”

Kuo performs La Bayadere as well as “Hot Lunch Jam,” a 1980’s-themed jazz piece by guest choreographer Tina Yarborough Liggins set to the namesake track from the motion picture “FAME.”

Another jazz piece is Nina Lucas’s “Calling or Djembe.”  The beaded fringe of the dancers’ suede skirts rattles around their swinging hips in this traditional African dance-inspired piece, which first premiered in the 2009 Fall Concert.

“I wanted to revisit it and develop it a little bit more,” said Lucas, director of the Fall Concert and chair of the department. “I wanted to focus more on the theme of coming together and celebrating dance.”

A similar message of celebration resonates in part-time faculty member Debbie Sayles’ vibrant tap piece, “Challenge.”

“It’s so fun and lively,” said Scott, after observing the piece in recent dress rehearsals.  “It contrasts well with some of the more serious pieces.”

For the first time in several years, the Fall Concert includes a piece performed by faculty members Christina Soriano and Jessie Laurita Spanglet, who also are choreographers of their own pieces.

Soriano and Spanglet perform “A Storm is approaching (The storm never comes),” by guest choreographer Alexandra Beller.  Earlier this semester, Beller visited the department and held an open, free master class as part of Dance Company’s “Friday Switch Series.”

“It’s nice to have them in the mix,” said Lucas of the performing faculty.  “It’s kind of an unspoken example for the students.  The students can see their processes – how they warm up, get into the mindset, review, and work together.

Just as the faculty share their experience and love of dance with the students, the students plan to do the same with the rest of campus.

“Regardless of what you’re interested in, there is a history and process that’s necessary for you to participate in that interest,” Martin said.  “I find that watching something else that has a history and a process broadens my horizons.  There is something very familiar about dance, and you owe it to yourself, I think, to explore that familiarity.”

Martin and his fellow choreographers, the dancers and other members of the department, whose efforts backstage and in production are imperative to the success of the Fall Concert, according to Lucas, encourage their peers to attend to the concert. It is a break, many insist, from projects, papers and looming finals.

“Also there’s nothing cooler than saying you’re going to take a date to the ballet,” Martin said.  “Probably one of the best pick-up lines out there — let’s go to the ballet.”