The dedicated performers of this year’s Dance Production took to the stage the weekend of April 2-4 to present an exciting show full of unique choreography, quirky humor, and cows… Lots of cows.
The production showcased a variety of styles featuring everything from classical and
contemporary ballet to ballroom and swing. The show kicked off with a comical hip-hop
piece complete with dancing gorillas and colorful jungle birds and was followed by an upbeat
ballroom dance featuring guest choreographers, Catherine Speer and Eric Phillips.
The second act began with the debut of CHINBOBLESS, a contemporary ballet piece choreographed by former American Ballet Theatre soloist, John Gardner. His wife, former ABT prima ballerina Amanda McKerrow, and student dancers brought Gardner’s artistic vision to life, accompanied by Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 played by Dr. Rose Whitmore on the organ. This is Gardner and McKerrow’s second year choreographing and performing for Principia.
The dynamic ABT duo is internationally recognized for their successful careers in the world of dance. Gardner received a scholarship to ABT’s School at the age of 16 and joined ABT’s secondary company three months later in 1977. He was made a soloist for ABT’s main company in 1984 and since then has danced countless roles in both classical and contemporary ballets. Later on in his career, John danced alongside legendary choreographer Mikhail Baryshnikov in the White Oak Project.
McKerrow danced with ABT while it was under the direction of Baryshnikov and was made a soloist in 1983. McKerrow has danced the leading roles in Cinderella, Giselle, Romeo and Juliet, La Bayadère, Don Quixote, The Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake, La Sylphide, and The Nutcracker. Like Gardner, McKerrow had an innate ability to dance different styles and both of them were given the opportunity to work with some of the greatest choreographers of the 20th century, including George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, Ant ony Tudor, Agnes de Mille and Mark Morris, to name a few.
Last year, Gardner choreographed a piece entitled Found for McKerrow, and has
decided that he loves creating ballets at Principia because of the loving and uplifting
atmosphere. His piece this year was a lighthearted and comical dance set to rich classical music that captivated the audience with its unique, precise, and explosive movement.
“My favorite part of Dance Prod was definitely performing CHINBOBLESS and working with
John and Amanda,” said freshman Maddi Demaree. Demaree was one of the lucky few who
attended the ballet workshop over winter break and was selected to dance in Gardner’s piece
for the production. Demaree describes what it was like being a part of Gardner’s creative
process. “He came to the workshop with all these ideas in his head,” she said. “It was cool to
watch his vision unfold and the more we rehearsed, the more we began to understand what he was trying to capture.”
Junior Bre Benbenek described her experience dancing in CHINBOBLESS as “the most
challenging dance [she has] ever done.”
“It was also an amazing opportunity to work with world-renowned dancers and close friends,” she said. “I loved sharing the experience with my friends on stage and with the audience. Getting to know John and Amanda was an absolute pleasure as well.”
In addition to Gardner’s piece, Dance Production included a variety of unique student choreography, each bringing something entirely different and creative to the stage. The show was a mixture of elaborate stories set to fun music and passionate, emotional pieces with deep messages.
The end of act three concluded with an epic piece involving hilarious cowboys and a herd of mischievous cattle fighting over a hat on a dude ranch. Over twenty cows “grazed” the stage alongside their cowboy friends in what proved to be yet another crowd favorite by post-graduate teaching intern Piper Hillman.
Other guest artists and choreographers included theater and dance department chair Hilary Harper-Wilcoxen, Alumni and Field Relations program manager Catherine Speer and Campus Security office manager Eric Phillips. Wilcoxen choreographed a piece explaining the laws of physics through music and dancing molecules. Speer and Phillips’ piece brought “Dancing With the Stars” to Principia with flashy choreography and upbeat pop music by Pitbull.
As you can clearly see, Dance Production is known for its diverse variety of styles and offers something for everyone to enjoy. After many long hours of rehearsal and preparation, dancers were excited to share their hard work with the rest of the community.
“What is so amazing about Dance Production is the willingness and the passion that everyone brings to every moment of Dance Prod no matter what level they’re at. We’re all one big family,” said senior Andrew Lambert-Cole. “Technicality is important, but the expression of Soul is what really touches people in the audience and I think that expression is what’s special about this particular production. You can’t find it anywhere else and I’m so grateful that I got to be a part of it.”