With only six dance majors, La Roche College's dance program is small.
Yet in the midst of rebuilding the program, Maria Caruso, the school's performing-arts department chair, is offering her students some of the same opportunities offered by programs like Point Park University, with its 150 dance majors. That includes the opportunity to work with professional choreographers and have new dance works created on them.
For La Roche's Spring Gala, this Friday at the Byham Theater, Caruso's students worked with several guest professional choreographers, who created or staged on them several of the dozen-plus dance works in this two-and-a-half-hour program.
Caruso is best known locally as artistic director of Bodiography Contemporary Ballet.
Joining the La Roche students will be students from the Bodiography Center for Movement's college-preparatory program. Other guest artists include Mercyhurst Ballet Theatre, Fluidity Dance Company and members of Bodiography.
The choreographers include James Martin, associate chair of New York University's Tisch School of the Arts dance department, who presents his work "The Twinkle Tribe." "The piece is really about dance and what dance can say and how the dancers motivate the action," he says. The 15-minute modern-dance work, set to early electronic music by Morton Subotnick, is an amalgam of classical ballet and contemporary dance forms.
La Roche dance instructor Kelly Basil says that her new modern-dance work (untitled at press time) is set to music by Tin Hat Trio. With its six dancers costumed in hoop skirts, the work evokes the images, and the movement, of bells.
Mercyhurst University's Mercyhurst Ballet Theatre will perform choreographer Sarah Grace's "Sculpture Unbound." Set to music by composers Christian Sinding and Dmitri Shostakovich, the contemporary ballet in three movements features a succession of "intricate movement patterns," says company artistic director Tauna Hunter.
Caruso will contribute five works to the program. These include the premiere of "Five Hebrew Love Songs," with music by Eric Whitacre performed live by the St. Vincent College Singers.
Rounding out the program will be excerpts from the ballet Giselle, re-staged by La Roche adjunct dance teacher Kirstie Corso, plus works by choreographers Rachel Rettberg, Christen Weimer, Karen Dacko, Jocelyn Labriola-Hrzic and Lauren Suflita-Skrabalak.