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VRDT in Larry Keigwin's "Take Off," one of 20 works being featured across two performances in the 30th Annual Bardavon Gala. Photo © Vassar College / Madeline Zappala '12.

Vassar Repertory Dance Theatre's 30th Annual Bardavon Gala

Later this month, the Vassar Repertory Dance Theatre presents its 30th Annual Bardavon Gala with two performances at Poughkeepsie’s Bardavon 1869 Opera House. The partnership between VRDT and the Bardavon began long before Vassar’s Frances Daly Fergusson Dance Theater. “The idea was to really give students a sense of what it’s like to be in a fully produced show,” explains dance professor and VRDT director John Meehan. “Not only to choreograph for themselves, but to be choreographed on, and to be presented on stage in a professional way.”

This year’s repertoire includes faculty and student choreography, Balanchine’s “Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux,” and new works by renowned choreographers Edwaard Liang and Larry Keigwin. Liang, who danced with the New York City Ballet and in Fosse on Broadway, fuses traditional ballet with contemporary movement in “Whispers in the Dark.” Keigwin, known for his modern dance style, offers “Take Off,” set to the music of young composer Jonathan Melville Pratt. Liang and Keigwin developed their pieces in fall 2011 for the occasion of Vassar’s Sesquicentennial.

Among faculty members, Katherine Wildberger, senior lecturer in dance and drama and VRDT’s assistant director, teamed up with adjunct artist and VRDT resident composer Howard Kilik on “Drumlin,” based on the poem “Buck in the Snow” by alumna Edna St. Vincent Millay ’17. Steve Rooks, chair of the dance department and VRDT resident choreographer, presents “Social Network(s).” Abby Saxon, adjunct instructor in dance, paired with alumna Martha Ross Tobias ’83 to co-choreograph “Voodoo Rendezvous.” And VRDT director John Meehan offers a classical ballet piece.

Student choreographers include Mickey Mahar ’12, Elly Dembo ’13, Michael Graceffa ’13, Niya Nicholson ’14, Matt Ortile ’14, and Emma King ’15.

In all, 28 dancers are involved in this year’s dance company. They are presenting 20 pieces over the two days at the Bardavon, says Meehan. Individual dancers are in as many as seven different works. “We produce a bit of a miracle,” explains Meehan. “Officially we only have three hours of rehearsal per week, and six weeks from the beginning of the semester, to polish it and get ready for the Bardavon.” In practice, the student dancers—about 90 percent have had previous dance training—spend plenty of time outside of official rehearsal working on their pieces.

“The student choreography and dance is at a very high level,” Meehan says. “We audition people to get into this company. They come to Vassar loving dance and want to make the commitment. It’s a big one, and we’re proud of the people in the company. It’s a wonderful achievement.”

At the Annual Bardavon Gala, the Vassar community and the public alike will have a chance to see for themselves what makes the Vassar company so special.

Performances take place on Saturday, February 25, at 8:00 p.m. and Sunday, February 26, at 3:00 p.m. For more information, including how to purchase tickets, see the press release.

– Peter Bronski

February 2012

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