As a part of the Steps Beyond series on November 9th in the Steps Studio Theater, an attentive audience of dance enthusiasts and supporters viewed performances of new works in progress at Ensemble on Ensemble. The evening showcased artistic director Bradley Shelver’s Steps Repertory Ensemble, and also featured performances by students in The Steps Conservatory Program, The School at Steps Pre-Professional Program, and two numbers set on Ballet NEO, choreographed by The School at Steps director Kate Thomas.
With an evening program as diverse as Ensemble on Ensemble, we as an audience were treated to performances by dancers brought together from various backgrounds at different points in their training and careers. This provided the audience with the opportunity to see up and coming students studying to be professionals, as well as seasoned professionals in the midst of their careers. The diversity of such a program also serves as a way for those just starting out on a professional track to be exposed to what it takes to make this a career.
The Steps Repertory Ensemble, a contemporary dance company, is made up of young professionals ranging in age from 18-25. In this particular performance they were not only given the chance to showcase their incredible artistry as dancers, but ensemble members Carly Marholin, Aurélien Peillex, and Allie Gee choreographed pieces set on their fellow company members. To wear multiple hats in one event takes a lot of focus and dedication, and each one of them stayed in the moment, and focused on the task at hand. They were able to balance what it takes to give their attention to performing, but also to what it takes to direct other dancers. A great opportunity for those who want to try something they may not have ever done before.
The young dancers in The School at Steps’ Pre-Professional Program danced with such artistry and skill, and showed through Karen Gayle’s Horton-inspired piece “Identity” that they are the future of dance–professionals in the making. Each one of them showed their personality on stage, and went through the various movements with grace, ease, while displaying a real passion for the work. Dancing alongside those with established careers in the arts will certainly help them to transition from student to professional artist.
The eleven conservatory students took the stage with the repertory ensemble members, and it was their first performance as a part of the program. The Steps Conservatory Program is a two-year conservatory program at Steps, under the leadership of Co-Artistic/Managing Director Diane Grumet and Administrator of Student Programs Mindy Upin Jackson. They danced with great energy and motivation next to the ensemble, and helped bring Bradley Shelver’s 3114 BCE to life. Performing to music by Maurice Ravel, the piece centered on evolution, and the dancers showed the progression as the music picked up in intensity, and the movements got larger and stronger. Working with the ensemble, allowed the conservatory dancers to see what it is like to be part of a company and to see their own potential in taking their artistry to the next level.
Kate Thomas set two pieces on Ballet NEO, a contemporary ballet company, which showed the versatility in her dancers. Each dancer brought a unique character to life in the parts they were dancing. An excerpt from Measurement and Caution showcased four dancers coming in and out of the movement in a series of duets and trios. The relationships between the characters came to life in their dancing and the story they were conveying reflected the title of the piece. Fellini’s Dream, a work in progress, mixed the worlds of fantasy and reality, employing the characters that inhabit Fellini’s films. The dance showed ways in which the characters may interact with one another in life. In Fellini’s dream world, they were brought together and joined as one, while in reality, the world sees them in a different way. Each distinct character (nuns, a mime, women of various levels of society/professions) clearly showed the roles they play in society. At times the choreography was playful, while sometimes it took a slightly darker tone as the story unfolded. A true reflection of Fellini’s work, and the characters he created.
Choreographer Jae Man Joo, the former Associate Artistic Director of Complexions Contemporary Ballet, set an excerpt from Recur on the members of the Steps Repertory Ensemble. They danced among one another with strength, fluidity, and commitment to the choreography. It is always wonderful to see how connected the dancers are to one another as they wove in and out taking the audience with them as they soared across the stage.
As a dancer myself, I always love to see programs such as Ensemble on Ensemble as they present such a wide variety of styles and range. It is always fun to see a show that allows dancers of various ages to share the stage, and which allows them to share their expertise and talent with those in the audience. Whether seeing a show as an artist or as a fan of the arts, there is something for everyone, and each person will come away from the experience in a different way. No two people will see something in the same light, and that is part of the charm of art. It is inspiring to see such motivated dancers, and to see them come together from all different backgrounds and experiences. I am looking forward to seeing these dancers and choreographers listed in future programs, and to see what the future holds for them as they continue to share what they have to offer us in the world of dance.
– Anne-Allegra Bennett
Theater Dance Student & Administrative Assistant
Photo: Eduardo Patino, choreography by Bradley Shelver-3114 BCE