‘Master Pieces’ features artistry, hard work of students and faculty

Lauren Post


Art came to life last weekend as the Department of Theatre and Dance performed its annual spring showcase, titled “Master Pieces.”

The production was under the direction of Dante Puleio, an assistant professor of theater and dance, who wove together both physical artwork and dance, making for an exciting performance of nuanced and fresh choreography.

The show opened by paying respect to two classic idols of art — Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Claude Monet — in choreographer Dominique Palmer’s piece, “Remembrances,” from which she hoped to inspire meditations on the past and present. The choreography of the piece was crafted in just three days in Italy last summer.

“I always wanted to choreograph to that piece of music (Mozart’s Concerto No. 21 in C Major for piano and orchestra),” said Palmer, a lecturer of theater and dance. “We got together, put the music on and just started moving.

“It sort of became a remembrance of another time, another place, another person.”

Act I also featured choreography from José Limón in “Choreographic Offering,” accompanied by Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Musical Offering” and choreographer Tracy Gilland-Shillabeer’s “Underneath the Painted Sky,” with musical accompaniment from “The Beginning” by Factor Eight.

Act II opened with “Le Corsaire,” a ballet originally choreographed by Joseph Mazilier in the 19th century. James Boyd, a lecturer of theater and dance, and Emma Shepard, a junior dance major from Foley, brought the revamped ballet to the stage, showcasing a modern interpretation by Marius Petipas.

The show concluded with “Encore,” choreographed by Daniel Gwitzman. The piece, unlike other numbers from the show, was a narrative, giving the audience a glimpse into the lives of a few dancers preparing to go on the road under the pressure of a demanding choreographer.

The show has been under production since November 2017 and has called for dedication and coordination from the department’s faculty, choreographers and students. Abigail Howard, a freshman dance major from Birmingham, recalls the many hours of rehearsals on top of classes for a dance major.

“It’s been very exhausting,” Howard said. “We’ve definitely spent many, many hours pouring into this program and into this performance specifically, but it has been worth it because I’ve seen myself grow in this experience and have really enjoyed it.”

Time management became, and remains, important for these dancers. They have to keep in mind how to care for themselves and their bodies while working, specifically on how they manage their elective classes outside the studio.

“It is so important to just take care of yourself,” Howard said. “We are literally working seven days a week, six hours a day most of the time.”

Boyd also played multiple roles in the show this spring, working both as a choreographer and as a dancer in “Le Corsaire.”

“We push the limits as to what’s possible,” Boyd said.

He said he owed the fluidity of the show’s production to working with talented students who actively wanted to learn and grow.

“I had the opportunity to work with smart dancers,” Boyd said. “After the choreography was set, the dancers took full control over their purpose behind the movement.”

For some dancers, this was their final performance as students under the direction of Troy University’s faculty.

“We have an incredible ensemble this year,” said Kenzie Haynes, a senior dance major from Nashville. “It’s definitely bittersweet — this being my last show.”

The Department of Theatre and Dance will showcase the choreography of its own students in the fall. Boyd looks forward to future shows within the department as well as the growth of his students.

“Expect to see more men on stage, variety of styles performed, community outreach and fun!” Boyd said.

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