dance

The School of Theatre and Dance prepares for its Spring Dance Concert two days before opening night. 

East Carolina University’s School of Theatre and Dance (SoTD) will host its Spring Dance Concert at 7:30 tonight through Saturday, with additional showings at 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday in McGinnis Theatre.

The concert is open to the public and will consist of multiple types of dance, which include ballet, jazz, tap and contemporary, according to the SoTD website. The show has multiple choreographers who range from guests, faculty and students. The concert will consist of eight pieces with a 15-minute intermission in between. 

Dance Program Coordinator Tommi Galaska is a choreographer for the show as she will collaborate with two students to make pieces. Galaska specializes in jazz and tap dances and her pieces will be a merge of both. 

“We try to give our patrons and the audience a variety so there’s no theme,” Galska said. “ We are a triple track program with equal emphasis on jazz, modern and ballet so when we do our concert each faculty member presents in their particular genre.”

Assistant professor of dance at ECU Jessica Teague said she is the choreographer for a piece called “Les nuits d’été,” which translates to “Summer Nights,” and is a collaboration piece with ECU’s music department. Teague said it is the only piece that will be performed with live music, versus the other pieces that will be performed with pre-recorded music. 

“I think that having the live music elements on stage is a special experience for dancers,” Teague said. “That kind of collaboration of multiple artists on stage, I felt that was something I wanted to do and have the dancers feel what that felt like.” 

Teague said the singer will be Catherine Gardner, who is an ECU professor and soprano singer. She said Gardner will be accompanied by Jared Eben, a member of the SoTD musical faculty, who will play the piano.

As a professional dancer, Teague said she had the opportunity to dance on stage with live music and when she met Gardner, she knew she wanted her dancers to experience it as well. She said Garner is “talented” and “experienced,” and therefore she was happy to be able to collaborate with her for this piece. 

The piece will incorporate the dancers, Gardner and Eben, all on stage simultaneously. She said the music is selected from the Romantic Era and will be sung in French.

Teague said she selected 11 dancers for the performance and four understudies. 

“Always in dancers' auditions, I look for an individual expression,” Teague said. “Their movement with the musicality and how they interpret the music and use the classical training and language to create their own expression.”  

One faculty member choreographer is teaching assistant professor Gabriela Estrada. She said her piece is titled “Monarch” and is inspired by the Monarch butterfly migrating from Canada and the U.S. to the first sanctuary in central Mexico. 

“My piece is a diverse mix of ballet, contemporary dance elements of Mexican folk dance and also sign language,” Estrada said. “It would be great for me to contribute something that connects with their (the student body) Latin American Mexican Heritage.”

The piece is designed to pay homage to American dancer Loie Fuller and Día de los Muertos. The dance will be performed to the song Huapango by Mexican pianist José Pablo Moncayo. Estrada is the co-chair of the Diversity and Inclusion Action Committee within the SoTD at ECU. She decided she should create something abstract due to the fact that there are not many Hispanic or Latin American references in the faculty or student body. 

Another unique aspect that will be added to this concert is the addition of alumnus Joe-Joe Smith. Smith came to the SoTD in January to audition a group of dancers for his piece and has worked with those students in an intense week. 

“He is an ECU alum who’s now a thriving choreographer. He’s an African American. Very, very unique talented artist,” Estrada said. “He works commercially and it's just like vibing with the best in the world.”

Senior dance performance, choreography and communication triple major Abigail Telenko is one of the senior choreographers this year. She said she has been a part of the SoTD for all four years but added the communication major her sophomore year at ECU. 

Telenko is both a performer and choreographer in the Spring Dance concert. She said she has choreographed pieces for other SoTD events before, but this is her first time as the choreographer for a Spring Dance Concert since it is a senior position. 

Telenko’s piece is titled “this mile isn’t mine,” stylized with all lowercase spelling. She said it is based on the idea of being placed into someone else’s position or situation in life. Telenko said she thought about the phrase “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes,” yet she changed the idea to focus on the act of accepting too much of someone else's struggles to the point that they become one’s own. 

“I kind of looked at the idea of what if you walked a mile in someone else’s shoes but you never take those shoes off, then you create a reality based on someone else’s life,” Telenko said. 

The audition process took place in the fall 2021 semester, Telenko said. She said seniors were given the opportunity to audition for the choreographer positions by creating a proposal for their piece. 

Telenko said she will also be in Smith’s hip hop piece, titled “Life in Color!,” in addition to a piece by the concert coordinator, IIana Giardina, titled “Uncharted,” and a collaboration piece titled “In The Pocket.” Telenko will also perform a solo piece at the March 25 performance. 

“I am really looking forward to sharing the stage with everyone for my last mainstage,” Telenko said. “I think it is an incredible show and I'm really excited to share it with everyone who comes and soak up being on stage with everyone.”

Tickets to the Spring Dance Concert are $10 for students and $15 for the general public. Tickets can be purchased at the Wright Auditorium Box Office, the Messick Theatre Arts Center box office, ordered online on the ECU Arts website, or over the phone by calling (252) 328-6829 or (252) 737-5444. 

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