Raw Edges brings usual innovation, adds focus on domestic violence

MU Raw Edges Dance Department
Months of creative exploration and discovery will culminate in the 15th edition of the Mercyhurst University Dance Department’s concert “Raw Edges” Feb. 1-3 at the Mary D’Angelo Performing Arts Center.

The popular showcase features The Mercyhurst Dancers performing diverse, innovative choreographic works from current students and guests. The dancers take the stage at 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.

This year’s visitors include returning Mercyhurst alumna Meredith Lyons ’03 and guest artist Neta Pulvermacher, who studied at Julliard with assistant professor of dance Solveig Santillano. Pulvermacher explores the use of props in her choreographic work – namely, industrial-grade five-gallon plastic buckets that the 15 dancers use to explore spatial patterns and percussive sounds.

Audiences look forward to Raw Edges’ varied musical score, and this year features an eclectic range of recordings from Michael Jackson to Mozart.

Mark Santillano, assistant professor of dance, said each Raw Edges concert is different because students are always pushing their boundaries as choreographers.

“For them, that creativity is always brewing,” he said. “They could draw inspiration from a YouTube video, a song on the radio – anything. We encourage them to be open to fresh ideas and try new things each year.”

The Saturday evening performance of Raw Edges is incorporated with a separate domestic violence awareness and fundraising initiative titled “Dancing for Freedom” that Tauna Hunter, dance department chairperson, has been working on during her sabbatical. Proceeds from the Saturday evening performance will benefit SafeNet and the university’s Jenni-Lyn Watson Memorial Scholarship Fund. Watson was a dance major at Mercyhurst before her untimely death in November 2010. The Jenni-Lyn Watson Memorial Scholarship helps offset the cost of auditions for senior dance majors in need.

“We don’t want to lose the momentum of honoring Jenni-Lyn’s memory,” Hunter said. “Domestic violence is something that deserves our attention, and we hope to partner and collaborate with more local organizations to raise awareness and grow the scholarship fund.”

Mary Gamble, wife of university president Tom Gamble, Ph.D., is honorary chair of the committee organizing the fundraiser.

Three seniors from the Choreography IV course and one junior from the Choreography III course will have their works performed in Raw Edges.

Senior Anastasia Welsh uses ballet to convey a Russian folk tale of a childless couple visited by fairies that bring a snow maiden to life. Senior Jessica Stachelrodt’s choreographic work utilizes movement to express how men – as well as other women – put women down. Tess Sinke, also a senior, draws her inspiration from Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven,” and junior Allegra Glinsky explores the theme of societal conformity and nonconformity.

Students are required to oversee the process from start to finish: Conceptualizing a theme, selecting music, running auditions, choosing costumes, choreographing the dance and consulting with the lighting designer for just the right look.

“Raw Edges is popular with audiences, and it’s also a great learning opportunity for our students,” Santillano said. “It helps them gain real-world experience that sets them apart when they go on to become professionals in the field.”

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.
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