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Dancers embrace ‘Happiness Beyond Words’

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Mercyhurst University Dance Department continues its celebration of the Happiness Season with “Happiness is Beyond Words III” Feb. 28 – Mar. 2 in the university’s Mary D’Angelo Performing Arts Center.
For the third year Mercyhurst Ballet Theatre and SoMar Dance Works, companies in residence at the university, join forces to showcase the unique talents of elite ensembles.

“These dancers are the cream of the crop,” says MBT co-artistic director Tauna Hunter. Mark Santillano, co-director of SoMar Dance Works, says, “The program always showcases how extremely versatile our dancers are. And, as usual, we’re pushing boundaries. From the surreal to the silly, and the preposterous to the poignant, we like to keep our audiences guessing what’s coming next.”

The seven short dances on the program range from thought-provoking and humorous modern to classical and contemporary ballet where choreographers have explored subjects ranging from happiness to the internal search of the feminine mystique to a celebration of the Olympics.

Each performance includes choreography by the legendary George Balanchine of New York City Ballet, James Clouser of the University of Arizona, and Erie choreographers Lesley Bories-Scalise, Tauna Hunter and the collaborative duo of Mark and Solveig Santillano.

Complementing the dancers is a powerful array of music by composers Rob Burger, Béla Fleck, Phillip Glass, Mikhail Glinka, Carla Kihlstedt, Mark Orton, Gabriel Roth, Alexander Scriabin, Antonio Vivaldi, as well as collaborators P. Evans/P. Parnes and John Lennon/Paul McCartney.

“I’m especially excited to offer the choreography of George Balanchine,” says Hunter. “It is an honor to have the Balanchine Trust award MBT the opportunity to present Valse Fantaisie with special guest artist Matthew Prescott.”

Both Prescott, formerly of the Joffrey Ballet, and Amanda Edge, formerly a soloist with New York City Ballet, are currently performing in Phantom of the Opera on Broadway. Both were in residence at the university in early February when Edge staged Valse Fantaisie for Mercyhurst Ballet Theatre. They will return to refine the work and see the final preparations for the performances.

The Saturday evening gala performance will be preceded by a 5:30 p.m. reception and silent auction to benefit SafeNet, Erie’s domestic violence safety network, and the Dance Department’s Jenni-Lyn Watson Memorial Scholarship Fund. Tickets at $50 per person include the reception, silent auction and performance and may be reserved by calling the dance department office at 824-2256.

Performances of “Happiness is Beyond Words III” are slated for Friday, Feb. 28, at 4:30 p.m.; Saturday, March 1, at 2 and 7 p.m.; and Sunday, March 2, at 2 p.m. at the Mary D’Angelo Performing Arts Center on the Mercyhurst campus. The afternoon concerts on Friday and Saturday are special discounted family performances with seats priced at $5. Tickets for the weekend performances range from $5 to $15.50 and can be purchased by calling 824-3000. Mercyhurst students with an ID will be admitted for $3.50.

“Talk Back” is a special opportunity to meet, talk with and ask questions of the dancers and choreographers following the Friday and Saturday evening performances.

PHOTO: Chelsea Robicheau by Jennifer White