GVSU students partner with NYC dancers for Fall Arts Celebration

By Kate Branum | 10/16/16 11:27pm

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GVL / Courtesy - Lois Greenfield Performers from the Francesca Harper Project company

by Lois Greenfield / Grand Valley Lanthorn

The Grand Valley State University Fall Arts Celebration continues with a performance of Beethoven’s “Creatures of Prometheus” by the renowned New York City performing arts company, the Francesca Harper Project, in collaboration with student dancers and faculty members at GVSU.

The performance will be held Monday, Oct. 24 at 7:30 p.m. in the Louis Armstrong Theatre in the Performing Arts Center, followed by a reception. A brief prelude carillon concert featuring university carillonneur Julianne Vanden Wyangaard will precede the dance from 7 p.m. to 7:20 p.m.

Each year, members of the dance department at GVSU decide on a piece of music to perform to as part of the Fall Arts Celebration. After selecting Beethoven’s piece as this year’s performance, faculty members began researching dance companies who have previously danced to “Creatures of Prometheus," discovering the Francesca Harper Project. GVSU modern dance professor Carrie Morris reached out to the company in March of 2015 and asked to collaborate.

Founded in 2005 by Francesca Harper, the nonprofit performing arts company is dedicated to creating original, inspiring dances, music and theater works. Harper’s direction and choreography acts as the artistic foundation for the company. Most importantly, the Francesca Harper Project embraces and celebrates the spirit of diversity and individuality.

Francesca Harper puts a unique spin on the perspective of Beethoven’s original score, written in 1801. She throws in her own interpretation of the classical ballet’s creation myth. In “Creatures of Prometheus," the dancers will elegantly portray the struggle of finding a balance in a life lived on the cusp of danger.

Beethoven’s ballet features a variety of complex uplifting melodies. The concept of the performance has little to do with Prometheus, the Greek mythical figure, and more to do with understanding morality and virtue and display of heroic struggle.

“I think there’s a few things that are really valuable about this,” Morris said. “In my opinion, one of the most important ones is just time spent with professionals in the field, especially when we bring in a company, a lot of our dancers aspire to that and a lot of our dancers want to join a company.

"This is a smaller company, it provides them with a model. I’m sure every dancer in that company has a story about how they started or what their career was like, how they’re building a life in dance and able to sustain that.”

The company will arrive at GVSU the morning of Wednesday, Oct. 19 to hold auditions for GVSU dance students. A maximum of 10 students will be chosen to perform alongside the professional dancers from the company.

“When (the company) comes in (for auditions), they will be looking for someone who can pick up the choreography quickly with attention to detail," said Samantha Shelton, GVSU ballet professor. "It's the same thing with corrections, to pay attention and if you're given a correction, apply it."

The opportunity to work alongside professionals not only gives dance students a new experience, but professors also hope the collaboration will get students’ names out in the open.

“The last time we did this, a project similar to this, was with Thodos Dance in Chicago a few years ago. A few students performed with the company, and the artistic director became very interested in one of our dancers and ended up hiring him after he graduated from GVSU,” Morris said.

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