SRU senior dancers to showcase years of training


Erica Burke

Erica Burke, a dance major from Wellsboro, will present original choreography during Slippery Rock University’s senior dance concert program April 23 in Swope Music. Students will perform at 2 and 5 p.m. (Photo by Ben Viatori.)

April 7, 2016

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - As a Slippery Rock University dance major scheduled to graduate in May, Erica Burke said she knew her senior synthesis dance concert would be a high-pressure presentation. So she created choreography, "Some Choices Haunt," to illustrate the rewards of rising to the challenge. Her piece is a solo, which she will dance.

"My piece is a reflection of what it takes to put your dream first, no matter what," said Burke, of Wellsboro.

Burke is one of 21 seniors that will present original choreographies during "Quiet Rising: A Senior Dance Concert," at 2 and 5 p.m., April 23, in Swope Music Hall. Forty dance majors will perform the choreography.

The required senior concerts are developed during SRU's "Senior Synthesis" class, which requires students to engage in advanced research to synthesize their learning into a capstone dance concert.

Burke said she is taking inspiration from a famous poet to symbolize her journey of meeting difficulty head on.

"I chose to illustrate this concept by incorporating some text from the poem 'Success is Counted Sweetest' by Emily Dickinson into a piece of music," Burke said. "I prepared by allowing myself to improvise and create phrase work from the movements. It was important to me that the intention was included without turning (it) into a storytelling piece."

While underclass dance students will perform many of the pieces, the 21 seniors will perform the finale number, "Journeying Through," with choreography by Nora Ambrosio, professor of dance; Ursula Payne, professor of dance; Teena Custer, instructor of dance, and Jennifer Keller, professor of dance. The music for this piece is an original composition by Andy Hasenpflug, dance department musician.

"In addition to engaging in traditional research, the students also have to develop a creative project, and many of the dances created for these concerts are a direct outcome of their research," Ambrosio said.

Burke said the concert is the capstone of her dance education at SRU.

"The opportunity to create work is a wonderful feature of our dance program," she said. "From the time we arrive on campus, we begin developing skills to choreograph. The movement that we create as students is not lost when we graduate. Many of the pieces will evolve and be adapted for use in professional artistic endeavors. I am excited for the concert, nervous for the day after. Knowing that this is our last performance as undergraduate dance majors at SRU is bittersweet."

Burke said her future plans involve researching, writing, teaching performance and eventually graduate school. She wants to explore dance history and the cultural geography of dance

Michelle Russ, a dance major from Frostburg, Maryland, will present a small group piece with five other dancers called "inConSisTent vAriaBles" at 5 p.m.

"The creative process for my piece is a work that I do in small sections," she said. "When I have an idea, I build upon it and then later go back and see how it relates to what other material I already have created. Sometimes it fits in perfectly, and sometimes I need to separate the section and then create a middle section that will bind the two outer laying ideas."

With this particular work, Russ said she pushed herself to keep her own individual style of choreography while incorporating ideas and concepts she learned in class.

"Most of the preparation was done by taking endless notes about different exercises and topics discussed in technique classes," she said.

Putting together a concert is a process every dancer should experience before graduating, she said.

"There are many different aspects that you don't think about when you are just performing," she said. "The order of the show is most important. To make sure that the audience stays involved and interested, different styles and different size groups should be considered. Also, gaining the space, crew and equipment needed is something that many of us just take for granted."

She said there is buzz in the dance department about the concerts.

"Each and everyone of us have worked extremely hard to make sure our work and our classmates are the best that we can present, and I just know that it is going to be a good show," she said.

After graduation, Russ said she wants to move west to work with dance companies and to obtain a massage therapy license.

Michelle Slavik, a dance major from Downington, said she would perform in a piece called "I Once Was." The sophomore said it is valuable working with seniors.

"It's benefited me because I've been able to develop both my creative and performance skills," she said. "I enjoy working with the upperclassmen because they motivate me to push myself to a higher level."

Tickets, $6 for students and $8 for general admission, are available at the Smith Student Center Information Desk, or at the door.

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