Fresh Dance: Dance Production at SUNY is Collaboration Between Students, Faculty and Guest Artists

NEW PALTZ — The Department of Theatre Arts at SUNY New Paltz presents Fresh Dance, a concert of original choreography in a variety of dance styles including Irish, jazz, ballet, hip hop, Latin, salsa, samba, and tap. Fresh Dance is performed Friday and Saturday, May 3 and 4 at 8:00 PM and Sunday, May 5 at 2:00 PM.

Under the direction of Yoav Kaddar, Assistant Professor of Theatre Arts, Fresh Dance provides students with a valuable opportunity to gain first-hand experience in choreography and performance. “Fresh Dance showcases the diverse backgrounds of students both in dance and in culture. Several cultures are represented artistically – from African and Irish dance to Brazilian samba and others,” Kaddar said.

In addition to creating their own original works, students collaborate with renowned dance professionals. Guest artists include The New Paltz School of Ballet and award winning Irish dancer Shannon Phypers and musician Melinda Aaron.

Aaron, a clarinetist, collaborates with Kaddar and pianist Stephen Kitsakos on a world premiere dance work called “Passing Through.” The musicians perform live on stage with Kaddar to music by Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn.

Collaboration in Fresh Dance extends to all facets of the production including lighting, costume design and elements of scenery. Lighting designer John Wade oversees students in his advanced lighting classes as they cooperate with the choreographers to create the appropriate mood and feeling for the dance. “This type of collaboration makes the dancers more aware of the technique and artistry involved in lighting dance, and exposes the lighting students to another medium of performance,” says Wade.

Tickets to Fresh Dance are reserved seating. Tickets go on sale April 25th and are available at the McKenna Theatre box office window or by calling 257-3880 Monday-Friday 11:30am to 4:00pm. Prices are as follows: $8 for the public, $6 for students and senior citizens. No student rush tickets will be available.

The New Paltz School of Ballet (guest performers)
The New Paltz School of Ballet is directed by Peter and Lisa Naumann both former dancers of the New York City Ballet. Their school offers intensive Balanchine training, as well as jazz and classes for children. The New Paltz School of Ballet is the home of New Paltz Ballet Theatre, a nonprofit performing company. New Paltz Ballet Theatre performs “The Nutcracker” at the Bardavon Opera House annually. They have recently presented “The Firebird” at the Bardavon and received rave reviews.

Shannon Phypers (guest performer)
Shannon Phypers was born into an Irish-American family in 1984, and was quickly exposed to both Irish music and dance. She took her first dance lesson at the age of 5 and soon showed such promise that she was quickly advanced to compete in championship competitions. After winning all of the local championships she entered, Shannon moved into the state and regional championships and continued her winning streak. As soon as Shannon was old enough, she entered the North American Championships, to compete against hundreds of other dancers from the U.S., Canada, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Australia and New Zealand. Shannon’s first place Waterford Crystal Trophy was bigger than she was, and she was unable to carry it off the podium. Shannon was also part of an eight-person ceili team that won the National Championships two years in a row and represented the United States in the World Championships in Galway, Ireland. “Ceili” is a Gaelic word meaning “a party with live music and dancing,” similar to an Irish square dance. Every year Shannon danced she was on the winning podium until she was forced to retire at the age of thirteen because of a very serious knee injury. Although Shannon no longer competes in Irish dancing she still enjoys doing occasional performances and is very busy with her musical career.

Melinda Aaron (guest artist)
Melinda Aaron has been a certified music therapist and music educator for the past 17 years. She is an artistic associate of “Potential Unlimited” which promotes music presentation for developmentally challenged people. She is currently employed in the Beacon school system.

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Editors: Images that can accompany this story will be available on Tuesday, April 30 in the morning. The photo shoot is Monday night. I will forward them to each of you as soon as we have them. -David Cavallaro