From contemporary to classical dance

Posted: October 24, 2013

The Winchester Star

Shenandoah dance students rehearse "Send Your Love" by Bob Boross. The Fall Dance Concert will be held this weekend. (Photo by Scott Mason/The Winchester Star)
Shenandoah dance students rehearse “Mercy Street” by choreographer Bob Boross. (Photo by Scott Mason/The Winchester Star)

Winchester — The Shenandoah Dance Ensemble’s annual Fall Dance Concert is as much about pushing students to explore the art form as it is about entertaining an audience.

Fortunately, the upcoming show is capable of doing both, said Erica Helm, dance division chair.

The program of seven dances spans the spectrum from classical to contemporary movements and style, she said. The fact that the program is so diverse is a “great opportunity for the dancers” because they are exposed to the different styles and how their bodies react to them.

The performances will be at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday in the Ohrstrom-Bryant Theatre. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for students. Call 540-665-4569.

Two new faculty members will have pieces featured in the production with two dance numbers choreographed by Bob Boross, visiting associate professor of jazz dance, and one by Tiffanie Carson, guest dance professor, Helm said.

With “Mercy Street,” Boross starts with a “strong score featuring both a lighter side and darker undertones.” The music gave him ideas about people being friendly on the outside but there being darker tendencies underneath.

The dance is a modern jazz piece with “strong acting overtones.” It features several dancers playing characters who have adopted a pack mentality and are tormenting someone else, he said. “They have to be very sinister and a little unnerving.”

Boross’s other dance, “Send Your Love,” also is a modern jazz piece, this time using concept, music, and costumes to tell a story. Ting-Yu Chen, associate professor of dance, choreographed a piece with 18 freshman dancers to create “Fighting Same Differences.” The challenge and entertainment of working with first year students is that she started with a blank canvas, she said.

“Anything they bring to me is surprising because they are still unknown to the faculty here,” she said. “The work starts with getting to know one another and how they move.”

The students will dance to “Musik für den Schultheiss,” an original piece of music that David T. Little, director of composition and new music coordinator at the conservatory, created several years ago.

Maurice Fraga’s “Tactics” is loosely based on the theory how people poach on the territory of others, using the rules and products that already exist in culture in a way that is influenced but never wholly determined by them, Helm said.

Fraga, assistant professor of dance, has put the same dance on with two different groups of dancers — one all male, one all female — and will have them alternate which one performs at each show, she said.

“It is very physical and a test of athleticism,” she said. “It is interesting to see the nuances between an all-female and all-male cast.”

“Rock U” is a tribute to classic rock ’n’ roll choreographed by Alan Arnett and embracing the rebellious spirit, bravado, and posturing of that era, Helm said. The performance is a suite of five jazz dances and one tap dance. The kids are having a blast doing this,” she said.

The students of the Epsilon chapter of Sigma Rho Delta, the dance fraternity, raised money to bring in a guest choreographer to create a piece for them.

The result is “Through a Pinhole,” which was created by Mike Esperanza, who runs the Bare Dance CompanNY in New York, while working with the students for five days in September.

“It is a tour de force. It is very intensive and reflective,” Helm said. “You will go away thinking about this.”

— Contact Laura McFarland at