Arts Around Town

Arts Around Town: Spotlight on Muhlenberg students with 'Master Choreographers'

When you're part of an original dance cast, you grow into the style of the director or choreographer. It's that learned technique that you hope to pass on to your own students someday. For former Joffrey Ballet dancer Trinette Singleton, it's working with college students in a re-staging of a Joffrey signature piece for the annual "Master Choreographers" dance concert beginning tonight through Saturday at Muhlenberg College in Allentown.

Singleton is one of two choreographers who have re-staged a work for this weekend's dance showcase. The other is Danish choreographer Charlotte Boye-Christensen, artistic director of the Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company. Muhlenberg audiences also will experience world premieres created by five of the region's most accomplished choreographers.

According to Karen Dearborn, director of dance for Muhlenberg's Department of Theatre & Dance, and artistic director of "Master Choreographers," audiences will be treated to ballet, tap, jazz, and contemporary dance "by one of the top-ranked college dance programs in the country." She added that its dancers have been recognized four times by the American College Dance Festival Association for its National Festival at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. Dearborn is the founding director of Muhlenberg College's dance program.

Formerly a principal dancer with The Joffrey Ballet for 15 years, Singleton re-staged the second movement of "Viva Vivaldi," Joffrey's signature work, choreographed by Gerald Arpino. She said she chose one section of Arpino's piece, which has been in and out of the Joffrey repertoire since 1965. She described the re-staged piece as "a jam-packed six minutes of fast and furious, a six-minute aerobic piece with hard pointe work."

Singleton, of Easton, is co-artistic director of Repertory Dance Company. She also teaches ballet and pointe at DeSales University. She serves on the board of The Gerald Arpino and Robert Joffrey Foundation. Singleton was the first dancer to appear on the cover of a national news magazine (Time, 1968), and is featured in the recent Joffrey documentary, "The Joffrey Ballet: The Mavericks of American Dance."

The Muhlenberg dance concert also will feature world-premiere works by Corrie Franz Cowart, co-artistic director of Co-Art Dance; Heidi Cruz-Austin, co-artistic director of DanceSpora and a Pennsylvania Ballet alumna; Dorrell Martin, founder and executive artistic director of LEON Dance Arts NY; Shelley Oliver, artistic director of Shelley Oliver Tap Dancers, and Jeffrey Peterson, former dancer with Danny Buraczeski's JAZZDANCE.

Oliver choreographed students in the tap piece, "Cascades," which will be performed to an original tune, "Inspiration Calls to Me," written by her husband, jazz artist David Leonhardt. Oliver said Leonhardt wrote the arrangement specifically for the Muhlenberg performance. She described the dance piece as "dynamic and sophisticated, with lots of intensity." Leonhardt and his jazz group will perform on stage along with the dancers. According to Oliver, "the band influences the dancers' energy, and the dancers' rhythms influence the band."

As a professional tap dancer for more than 20 years, Oliver has appeared internationally with some of the legends of the tap world, as well as with jazz greats. She is a founding member of the international touring ensemble, Manhattan Tap. She is director of the Muhlenberg Jazz Tap Ensemble and the featured tap soloist with the David Leonhardt Jazz Group, touring jazz festivals and concerts worldwide.

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In addition to Muhlenberg's showcase in Allentown, some rather unique dance performances will be taking place at the Zoellner Arts Center in Bethlehem on Sunday at 7 p.m., with a first-time U.S. performance by the British dance-theater company, Motionhouse, and its production of "Scattered."

The family-friendly work, directed by Motionhouse artistic director Kevin Finnan, employs highly physical dance theater and mesmerizing imagery in a unique interaction between film and live performance. Dancers will be immersing themselves with sensational images of nature as they perform on a huge, curved floor that disappears skyward, with projection technology, aerial harnesses and bungees.

Motionhouse was founded by Finnan and Louise Richards in 1988.

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Dancers are among the subjects of the "Barbara Morgan Photography" exhibit, running through May 5, at the Reading Public Museum. Morgan (1900-1992) came to New York in the 1930s, when Martha Graham was a rising star as a choreographer and dancer. Morgan documented Graham's dance company through a series of photographs, some of which are featured in the exhibition. Her most famous image is the visually striking "Martha Graham: Letter to the World (The Kick)" from 1940. Other photographs feature dancers Jose Limon and Doris Humphries. The images are part of a recent gift/purchase courtesy of William and Leena Kipp of Berks County.

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