Vassar Repertory Dance Theater (VRDT) will be performing their Final Showings from Nov. 21 through Nov. 23 at the Frances Daly Fergusson Dance Theater. Performances will be held at 8:00 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
VRDT is Vassar’s faculty-run dance company and will be exhibiting 19 pieces in Final Showings. The program will consist of 12 numbers choreographed by students, five choreographed by individual faculty members, a piece done by the entire dance faculty and a piece by a special guest, which will be “Laireigne,” by American choreographer Stephen Petronio.
The group is excited for the performance and eager to exhibit the talent of their novice and senior members.
Professor of Dance John Meehan divulged, “We…happen to have excellent dancers. The level is much higher even than usual, and the enthusiasm is definitely much higher right across the board, from the freshmen to seniors.”
Matt Ortile ’14 spoke to the excitement of seeing the pieces come together. “It’s exciting to see the stage where everyone is currently starting to finish up their pieces. It’s going to be very exciting,” he said.
Ortile began studying dance on a more serious level after entering Vassar as a freshman; Ortile started his first year at Vassar by taking Miriam Madahviani-Goldstone’s Beginning Ballet classes and has yet to look back.
Ortile was immediately taken with dance and has been an active member of VRDT and FlyPeople, a student-run dance organization on campus, throughout the entirety of his Vassar career.
Though VRDT Final Showings will exhibit 12 student-choreographed pieces, originally 14 students volunteered to choreograph—a testament to the enthusiasm of this year’s company.
“It’s a really big season this year,” said Ortile, who originally planned to choreograph a piece as well but had to pull out due to time constraints and thesis work.
“There were so many student pieces and we were fighting over so many people just because everybody is so talented and people were getting stressed and there is a very limited space and resources that we have available in Kenyon,” said Ortile. “So that was a little sad, but in a way it is kind of cool because dance is now really growing at Vassar. Students more than ever now are more inspired to create new works for the company, and it’s been really cool watching everything grow from the First Showings [which took place on Oct. 9] and now to our Final Showings,” Ortile continued.
“When we asked for choreographic proposals this year we had 14 people come forward, which I think is the most ever of VRDT,” said Meehan. The students then had to find a cast, rehearsal times and studio space.
Five pieces have been choreographed by individual faculty members, including Professor of Dance Stephen Rooks and Senior Lecturer in Drama Katherine Wildberger, both of whom specialize in modern dance, and Adjunct Instructor in Dance Abby Saxon, who teaches jazz.
In addition, Visiting Assistant Professor of Dance Miriam Madahviani-Goldstone and Meehan, specialists in ballet, have choreographed pieces.
“I have taught five of the solos from ‘Sleeping Beauty,’ and then I have choreographed a little entrance and a little coda that goes at either end of the solos,” Meehan described of his piece, which consists of four freshman and one sophomore.
Madahviani has choreographed an original piece specifically for the VRDT students. She choreographed a near-classical ballet dance that includes a large deal of partnering, which makes it an atypical performance piece for the group.
This year’s guest choreographer featured in the show is Stephen Petronio, a famed dancer and choreographer and the artistic director of the Stephen Petronio Company based in New York City.
A dancer from Petronio’s company has been setting the choreography of an excerpt from Petronio’s “Lareigne” for VRDT.
“His choreography is very amazing but also very challenging. He created ‘Lareigne’ for the 10th or 20th anniversary of his company. It’s been a pretty big deal—they’ve been spending a lot of time on it, so it is going to be very exciting to show that,” said Ortile.
Meehan added, “He is a very well thought of modern choreographer, kind of cutting edge—so we had some very intense rehearsals. It is one and a half casts, it is very athletic and it is very complicated. It has its still moments and then moments where everyone is doing something different. There is a lot of what you could say ‘traffic.’ So it takes a lot of rehearsal and is very impressive.”
Practice has indeed been an intense process and has been going on for nine weeks. The company underwent a late start in their process; auditions were held later in the year than is customary and practice time was lost due to October break.
“It’s been really amazing to see what the choreographers have come up with in such a short amount of time,” attested Ortile.
“While the time span between First and Final Showings is only a few short weeks, so much is achieved. I grew and learned from the amazing and inspiring dancers all around me,” said new VRDT member Zerlina Panush ’17.