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January 24, 2014
CONTACT: Gordon Ovenshine

Dancers interpret California's 'The Rock'

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Slippery Rock University dancers have found artistic inspiration in Alcatraz, the former federal penitentiary in California known as "The Rock," and several of its most famous prisoners, including Al Capone and George "Machine Gun Kelly" Barnes.

"Escape Proof," choreographed by Shelley Collock, an SRU dance major from East Haddam, Conn., is one of 12 original dance works being premiered during SRU's Feb. 8 "Making Our Move" winter concert at Butler County Community College's Succop Theater. SRU dance theatre, sponsored by the department of dance, is presenting the concert.

Dance majors, who worked on their dances during the fall semester, will present solo and group chorography in modern and classically influenced styles.

Alcatraz was a San Francisco Bay island prison that housed maximum-security prisoners from 1933-1963. Historians debate whether inmates ever escaped. "Escape from Alcatraz," a 1979 movie, speculated that inmate Frank Morris escaped, but this has never been proven.

Collock, who believes Morris escaped but then drowned in the bay, visited Alcatraz two years ago and became captivated by its history.

"I have never created a dance with a dark and dangerous vibe before, and Alcatraz gave me great inspiration so I decided to go for it," Collock said. "After extensive research, I collected information on nine inmates who spent time at Alcatraz, including Al Capone and Machine Gun Kelly and gave each of my nine dancers an inmate to portray."

The dance is modern based movement created with many images of Alcatraz in mind, she said. Dancers' costumes consist of jumpsuits.

"I believe it is a truly thrilling piece of work," Collock said.

Collock's titled her solo dance "What You Don't Want in Your Garden." The piece explores images and characteristics of gardeners' banes such as weeds and insects. Collock said she merged ballet and modern dance to illustrate her ideas.

Alyssa McIntyre, a dance major from Glenmoore, said poetry inspired her group piece "Eventide," which she described as a modern dance with classical feeling.

McIntyre said she worked on the choreography for five months.

"This work was inspired by Freeman Miller's poem, 'At Eventide,' in which he speaks beautifully about the end of every day, when every person needs to set their worries aside and wait for the coming of a new beginning," she said. "I also saw the poem as a metaphor about the ending of life, the moment every person will come to when they will need to let go of all their cares and sorrows and accept that they will be leaving this world and entering into a place that is more beautiful than we could ever imagine."

McIntyre is premiering a solo work she created for herself titled "Tock," a rhythmic, quirky modern piece. She created "Tock" via a two-month choreographic process and rigorous rehearsals.

"I tried to make movement that no one has seen before and choreography that would seem fresh to any audience," she said. "The audience should have an open mind when watching this work and create their own meaning. That is what I intended for the end result. As long as I send an audience member home with questions about my piece, I will have received the reaction I wanted."

"I feel so honored to have two of my choreographed works in the winter concert," she said. "All of the my hard work and my dancers hard work' has definitely paid off. The dedication that was put into both my solo and my group work is beyond what I imagined and I couldn't ask for anything more for my senior year."

Abby Hewitt, Samantha Baker, Lindsay Zipparo and Nicole Monville, dance majors from Indiana, Pa., Conway, Sewickley and Smoketown, are presenting group dances. Taylor Pearson a dance and secondary education major from Philadelphia, created a contemporary duet for Melanie Calhoun, a graduate student from Baltimore, and Ryan McMullen, a dance major from Philadelphia.

Sonja Gable, Rebecca Burcher and Ryan McMullen, dance majors from Johnstown, Walnut Creek, Calif., and Philadelphia, will perform solo dances.

Student dances selected for the winter concert went through a faculty and peer evaluation process during the fall semester. Dance faculty adjudicated 40 dances during informal laboratories and then selected dances for the fall and winter dance concerts. Dances receiving the highest scores progress to the winter concert, making it the most prestigious.

Tickets, $5.50 for students, senior citizens and children, and $10.50 general admission, are available at the SRU Smith Student Center Information Desk, or online at

Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania's premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.