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Mercyhurst Dancers celebrate 19 years of ‘Raw Edges’

Friday, March 3, 2017

The Mercyhurst University Dance Department will present Raw Edges from March 17-19 in the Mary D’Angelo Performing Arts Center. In its 19th year, Raw Edges is an audience favorite that showcases the cutting-edge choreography of upper level dance majors from the Mercyhurst University Dance Department.

Raw Edges is the culmination of months of work. Auditions for the production took place last December and rehearsals began in early January. The students plan their projects from start to finish, by selecting a theme and music, conducting in-depth research, developing the choreography and preparing for the final showcase. For the six seniors enrolled in Senior Seminar, they began planning their capstone experience last spring semester, making this a year-long experience.

The 16 student choreographers — Marleigh Bristol, Sara Clarke, Audrey Davison, Ragan Faulkner, Kathryn Galimi, Lacey Gigliotti, Elizabeth Hite, Mathew Huefner, Ashley Miltich, Victoria Morris, Veronica Plys, Sarah Ruesch, Kerry Schroeder , Celina Schroer, Danielle Garcia Silva and Makayla Sprague — not only get to flex their creative muscles, but will also gain experience auditioning, casting and directing 57 undergraduate dance majors. The entire process is overseen by dance faculty Noelle Partusch, Mark Santillano and Solveig Santillano. 

The uniqueness of Raw Edges not only comes from original choreography, but also from the costume, lighting, musical and thematic selections made by each student choreographer.

Topics addressed through Raw Edges this year range in subject matter — from mental illness to rainforests, from infatuation, obsession and determination, to death and the grieving process. Musical selections include country western, classical, contemporary and techno beats, while student inspiration was drawn from paintings, poetry and the human condition.

Another unique aspect of Raw Edges is its interdisciplinary nature, which allows student choreographers to collaborate with faculty and students in other departments. This year, student choreographers are working with professors in psychology and biology, as well as with the Mercyhurst student choir to add new depths to their final performances. These collaborations foster artistic connections between the departments, allowing multiple students to get involved.  

Audience members will also have the opportunity to hear about the choreography process during “Talk Back” sessions offered before some shows and during intermission of each show. Each capstone choreographer will discuss his or her process for creating, realizing and articulating a unique vision.

Raw Edges will be performed in the Mary D’Angelo Performing Arts Center on Friday, March 17, at 4:30 p.m.; Saturday, March 18, at 2 and 7 p.m.; and Sunday, March 19, at 2 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for seniors and students, and $5 for youths 12 and under and Mercyhurst students. They can be purchased online at or by calling the box office at 814-824-3000.­­­­­­­­­

The Mercyhurst Dance Department is also partnering with LECOM/LifeWorks Erie, a unique organization providing opportunities for successful aging. The Saturday evening performance will be hosted by LifeWorks and will serve as an occasion to raise awareness and funds for this important organization.


Sophomore dance majors Lucas De Marinis and Rachel Rhodanz perform “Two Shades of Red” choreographed by Victoria Morris.


Photo credit: Mark Santillano