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Mercyhurst Dance Dept. presents Beyond Words IV

Thursday, February 5, 2015

The Mercyhurst University Dance Department presents Beyond Words IV for four performances Feb. 20-22, showcasing Mercyhurst dancers, faculty and guest artists in content that ranges from the sublime to the ridiculous.

The program features two companies in residence at Mercyhurst, the Mercyhurst Ballet Theatre under the direction of Tauna Hunter and Michael Gleason and SoMar Dance Works under the direction of Solveig and Mark Santillano. They’ll be joined by special guests from the Liaoning Ballet Academy of China, under the direction of Chengquan Li.

Performances are Friday, Feb. 20, at 4:30 p.m.; Saturday, Feb. 21, at 2 and 7 p.m.; and Sunday, Feb. 22, at 2 p.m. in the Mary D’Angelo Performing Arts Center at Mercyhurst.

The Mercyhurst Ballet Theatre will present the romantic canon Pas de Quatre choreographed by Sir Anton Dolin, as well as a new contemporary work by faculty member Melissa Bobick and a premiere by returning professional Rachel James.

Guest artist Miaoyuan Ma will perform solos from Don Quixote and Paquita, and Jiawen Liu will partner Mercyhurst dancers Esmae Gold and Elaina Sutula in Flower Festival in Genzano Pas de Deux.

SoMar Dance Works explores the interfacing of art and education in a world-premiere collaboration that brings the prize-winning children’s stories of local author Mary Arete Moodey to the stage. The program will also feature two pieces choreographed by Solveig and Mark Santillano that explore social concerns, a lighthearted look at food safety and a somber reflection on the repeated tragedies of school shootings, titled A Desperate Cry.

The unique collaboration with China grew out of a visit to China this fall by Dance Department Chair Tauna Hunter, who initiated a foreign exchange with the renowned Liaoning Ballet, now celebrating its 35th anniversary.

“We’re really excited about the collaboration with Liaoning Ballet School and Company,” said Hunter, “We’re the only dance university in the region that attracts top-notch pre-professional and returning professional dancers from around the world. This elite talent pool makes it possible to offer meaningful exchanges as well as present performances that range from full-length classical ballets to cutting-edge contemporary works.”

Once again the Mercyhurst University Dance Department will partner with SafeNet to raise awareness about domestic violence. The Saturday evening gala performance will benefit SafeNet and the Jenni-Lyn Watson Memorial Scholarship Fund, created in memory of Jenni-Lyn Watson, a former dance major and performer with SoMar Dance Works. “This opportunity has helped us to heal and move forward through service,” said Solveig Santillano. “We are blessed to work with a phenomenally gifted group of dancers who are as passionate about their art form as they are eager to use their artistry to confront injustice and serve the community.”

The audience is invited to enjoy a special “Talk Back” with dancers and choreographers in the theatre immediately following the Friday and Saturday evening performances.

Tickets for Beyond Words IV range from $5 to $15 and can be reserved by calling 814-824-3000.