Mercyhurst Dance Department alumna Meredith Lyons has seen a lot since her graduation in 2003, from earning her MFA at Smith College in Northampton, Mass., to her current work performing with modern dance companies in Philadelphia. But to Lyons, nothing compares to the ‘Hurst.
“The Mercyhurst faculty cares so much about the students,” she said. “That’s a defining factor of the dance program here. I’m amazed at how much they know about each student, inside and out. That’s something you just don’t find at other dance programs around the nation.”
Lyons will join The Mercyhurst Dancers and others on the Mary D’Angelo Performing Arts Center (PAC) stage for Raw Edges, 2 and 7 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 2, and again on Sunday, Feb. 3, at 2 p.m. A special preview concert will be held Friday, Feb. 1, at 4:30 p.m. with balcony seating only.
Lyons’ return to Erie to serve as a guest choreographer and performer for Raw Edges is the first time she’s been back to her alma mater since she graduated.
“The students here are amazing,” she said. “They’re very talented.”
Lyons explores the relationship between dance and technology in her two featured choreographic works, using video projections to transform the landscape of the stage. As a graduate student, her research centered on the intersection of dance, media and technology.
Her brand-new choreographed work, “A Life Less Backwards,” features five dancers shrouded in video footage of deeply personal words plucked from the diaries of actual dancers Lyons worked with in the past. The words scroll and shift while they are projected onto the dancers.
Lyons’ solo work, “to be seen, to be understood, to be not so very lonely,” consists of entirely improvised choreography within set improvisational structures. She dances in front of a black and white video of herself shot by Philadelphia cinematographer Christopher Landy and directed/edited by dance filmmaker and choreographer Tori Lawrence. Along with a few other companies, Lyons currently performs with Lawrence’s Philadelphia-based company, Tori Lawrence and Co.
It’s a bit unnerving, Lyons noted, to drum up the courage to improvise a solo dance in front of hundreds of people – but stretching your limits is what Raw Edges is all about.
“Raw Edges has always encouraged choreographers and performers to take risks and try new things in their work,” Lyons said. “The students are exploring and delving into new ways of working, and I’m trying to do that, as well. I still see myself as a student. We’re always learning; in the studio, on the stage and in our daily lives.”
Raw Edges tickets are $15.50 for adults and $12.50 for seniors and students. Tickets for the preview concert are $5. All tickets can be purchased by calling 814-824-3000 or by visiting miac.mercyhurst.edu