Move to the music

Unique routines a prelude to 'Animal Farm'

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— Goodbyes will be difficult for faculty and students at Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School and Camp; however, many have made advantageous connections for future productions.

The choreographers and directors of the Youth Festival II sat in the Perry-Mansfield office Tuesday afternoon and pointed to each other with before-mentioned ideas for the future.

"We've all made new connections and we're gonna try to work with each other," said choreographer Mikey Thomas.

Choreographers said the older students who are really interested in pursuing careers in performing arts have made those first-step connections that hopefully will land them success.

But before everyone parts their ways and says goodbye, Perry-Mansfield has one final performance for the public.

The junior/intermediate classes wrap up their final week with four choreographed pieces that precede the play "Animal Farm."

An original novel by George Orwell in 1945, directors began staging "Animal Farm" in the early '90s, and Steve Snyder thought this would be perfect for the young students at Perry-Mansfield.

"I chose this piece because it's a challenge. In many cases, they've risen to the challenge," said Snyder, a recent graduate of the Asolo Conservatory for Actor Training in Sarasota, Fla. "Because we've expected more, they've responded more."

"Animal Farm" was written on the premise of the days of the Russian Revolution when Lenin, Trotsky and later Stalin struggled for power each in their own way.

"Animal Farm" depicted the idea of a communist society within a farm of animals who want to overthrow their owner to free themselves of oppression. The animals unite and all want to be seen as equal players on the farm; however, oppression returns to create a society that is ruled under the hand of the owner alone, not the players.

"We have all been sheep and horses, cows and pigs at one time or another," Snyder said. "We see animals being oppressed and then standing up for themselves and creating a new society and then allowing the return of oppression again."

Terms such as "comrades" and "major" used to refer to characters in the play connote the idea of a communist society ruled by the ideas of Marxism in the early 20th century. Snyder said he has tried to directly mirror the novel from which the play originates; however, 37 cast members and a small stage create a challenge. Some editing had to be done.

"Kids have much deeper insight to human nature than many people give them credit for," Snyder said. "I wanted to choose a piece that would teach them about history and philosophy and what it meant to be a human."

And each human form comes with creative ideas, unique shapes and world to interpret how they see it.

Preceding the showcase of "Animal Farm," four choreographers each present a piece with varied dance forms that balance each other cohesively.

For her third choreographed piece this summer, Lisa Hopkins presents the Latin jazz piece "Street Mambo" with six dancers, one being male.

"With those pieces, it was nice to not always have jazz closing," Hopkins said of her piece not coming last in the sequence of choreographed dances.

At a dress rehearsal Tuesday night, dancers came on stage with vibrant red bandannas and ripped shirts with tight black pants showing a somewhat modern jazz six-minute piece.

Contrasting to the Latin jazz, Christina Paolucci presents her own rendition of "Defilade" is a parade of ballet classwork that begins with the most basic of movement preparation, developing into challenging enhancements of classical ballet.

"Defilade" is a French tradition that comes at the end of the year to show the progress made for the Paris Opera Ballet, Paolucci said.

Paolucci, a Julliard graduate and principal dancer with the New York Theatre Ballet, said she chose Mozart to accompany the ballet because of its development into a strong piece that starts out soothing and calming to relax the muscles.

Concert pianist Glenn Gould is presented on a recording that is arranged with the steps.

Paolucci said this is not her own choreographed piece because it already exists; however, she said she molded the steps to her students.

"I took real ballet step from class. I want the public to see a ballet class," Paolucci said.

In the same soothing realm as the ballet, Julie Ludwick choreographed a "Winter Landscape" of modern dance.

"The dancers do not represent people. They represent the abstract idea of different things you see in winter," Ludwick said.

Dressed in white with an iridescent leaf-like skirt around their waists, Ludwick's dancers become still trees in the dead calm or blowing branches in a gusty wind.

But Ludwick said "Winter Landscape" hopefully will give people more of an interpretive feeling of a winter landscape vs. the literal objects.

"It's what you feel when you look at a winter landscape. They might only interpret the feeling. It's not literal in that way, it's more poetic," Ludwick said, adding a solo clarinet recording has created a nice, cool, wintry feeling.

Ludwick, owner of Fly By Night Dance Theatre in New York, produced her movement with the students' variation to create a space for freedom within a structure.

Ludwick has broken new ground at Perry-Mansfield this year by introducing low-flying trapeze to students. Although no trapeze is used for her "Winter Landscape," it is the first year the school and camp has introduced it with modern dance.

After praising the Perry-Mansfield crew members for their hard work and loyalty in creating successful performances, Thomas spoke of his post-postmodern piece "Looking at this Dance."

In a piece he choreographed and musically recorded with a voice synthesizer and Indonesian drumming, Thomas has created a bright stage performance with students who produce synchronized moves in a theatrical dance piece.

The music is called "pastiche," an Italian word for computer-generated music.

"It's the use of the body getting back to basic movements," Thomas said. "It's a lot about individuality. They've all got different heights, sizes there's no uniformity."

As the back doors of the Julie Harris Theatre open to the field highlighted with a twilight sky, dancers in vibrant orange, yellow and red move in pedestrian, athletic and everyday movements found on the street.

Thomas said it takes an excellent dancer to understand the fundamentals of dance, but back down from those fundamentals to create something out of the typical boundaries.

Thomas, a master of fine arts choreography graduate of Ohio State University, will return to New York Monday to begin his own dance company, Mikey Spike Physical Theatre.

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