From Thursday, Feb. 6 to Saturday, Feb. 8, the annual spring dance performance, Master Choreographers, debuted in Empie Theater for students, faculty, staff and community members to enjoy. Masters presented seven different dance pieces, choreographed by both Muhlenberg faculty members from the dance department and some guest choreographers. Works featured were choreographed by Heidi Cruz-Austin, Megan Flynn, Shelley Oliver, Yoshito Sakuraba, Randall Anthony Smith, Karen Dearborn and Bill Evans.
At the beginning of the show, Pattie Bostick-Winn was honored for her influence on dance education in the Lehigh Valley. A professional dancer for over ten years, she directed her own family dance studio for sixteen years and joined Muhlenberg and Cedar Crest’s dance faculty, teaching ballet and jazz. She has performed worldwide, but returned back to Allentown for Friday’s performance of Masters, and was awarded before the show began.
Directly after, the evening began with “Tower 7,” a dance inspired by Nnedi Okorafor’s The Book of the Phoenix choreographed by Heidi Cruz-Austin. With its contemporary style for traditional ballet pointe, this piece was the ideal opener for the night.
From the second the lights dimmed, audiences were enchanted by the grace and beauty of the dancers. Clad in black, they caught audience members by surprise and revealed their vibrantly colored “wings” towards the end of the dance.
Three-time Masters performer and dance veteran Samantha Sibilia ‘21 was a part of the piece and emphasized that she loves performing in Masters because of “the collaborative process with the dance faculty.” Another experience unique to Masters, according to Sibilia, is the role of the dancers in “helping [the choreographers] bring their story to life on the stage.”
“Master Choreographers gave me the performance experience I’ve always dreamt of having,” Marissa Camper ‘23 noted. “The production taught me the value of perseverance and professionalism in dance. We rehearsed from September to February every Wednesday and Sunday to make our piece as polished as possible.”
“Working with Megan Flynn and the other truly wonderful and talented dancers in the cast was a dream come true,” Morgan Randall ‘23 exclaimed. “For all of us in the cast, before the last show, we were reminded by senior Heather Dutton [‘20] how much Muhlenberg is a part of who we are and how it holds such a special place in our hearts, the dance studios especially.”
Randall performed in the second piece of the night, “Portraits of Placeness,” a modern dance piece about the memories and connections people associate with certain places and memories. Between the diversity in dance genres, high energy and evident passion for what these dancers do, Masters was truly a standout in the arts community this year.
“Master Choreographers prepares college students for successful careers in dance and beyond,” Camper said.
“We have all been creating together for Masters since September in the DST [Dance Studio Theatre],” Randall said. “Crying together as we walked off stage and hugging each other before we went back on for our section of the dance; the chemistry I formed with the dancers, community, faculty and space was unlike anything I’ve experienced before. Once again, dance has proven to be much bigger than just moving my body, and anyone who witnessed Master Choreographers would most likely agree with me.”
The show concluded with the tap spectacular “Cascades,” which featured a live, three-piece jazz band augmented by the rhythms of the tap dancers. Capner, who performed in “Cascades,” added that, “Shelley [Oliver] pushed us with her absolutely brilliant choreography and by investing months of her time and energy into making ‘Cascades’ a true masterpiece. And I am so grateful for all that she does for Muhlenberg and the wider tap community.”
Masters was a beautiful collection of different dances and the stories behind them. While Muhlenberg dance students got the opportunity to work with distinguished faculty, many of them felt very connected to their pieces and experiences throughout their preparation for the show. Congratulations to the cast of Master Choreographers on a beautiful performance.