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A tale of two dances: dance company performs contrasting shows in annual concert

UNH Professor of Theatre and Dance Gay Nardone didn’t plan on creating a dance concert that was also a social commentary on the division of social class, it just sort of happened.  

“[The show] became really more of something… I didn’t intend it to go that way but it went that way…” Nardone said. “It evolved. It started one way and then it went someplace else.”

According to jazz choreographer and lecturer in theater and dance Mary Beth Marino, the story changed a little bit every single week.

“Every week I feel like we added something new, something different,” Marino said. “It was literally like a snowball.”

Though Nardone’s original plan was a “Moulin Rouge” theme, some copyright issues pushed her in the direction of her finished product, “Ooh, La Paree!,” a show performed by UNH’s jazz, tap and aerial (JTA)company that portrayed the deep division of social class in today’s society.

Coupled with the ballet company’s  performance of the classic ballet “Cinderella,” this double feature took place on the weekend of March 29-April 2 in the Johnson Theatre, and used movement to portray two drastically different tales.

The ballet company opened the show with the portrayal of the classic, rags to riches Disney tale of the woman whose shoe found her true love.  

The director of “Cinderella,” Assaf Benchetrit, said that he originally didn’t want to do this show due to its “superficial” nature, but ultimately chose it due to his lack of male dancers, as the piece is a female-oriented show.

“In the beginning I wanted to play with the story maybe create some kind of interaction between them before they fall in love,” Benchetrit said. “Then I realized that slowly but slowly, I was telling a different story, so I realized, ‘you know what just leave it alone.’”

Though the plot remained the same, Assistant Professor of Theatre and Dance Benchetrit decided to add a twist as the characters of the two evil stepsisters were played by males, juniors Liam Tanner and Ryan Lemay.  This artistic choice added comedic relief to the love story and had the audience erupting in laughter.

Members of the UNH JTA company perform on the cube aperatus in “Ooh, La Paree!”

The leads were split between four dancers, each getting to perform for two out of the four shows.  Prince Charming was played by sophomore Logan Hales and junior Ben Hanley, while Cinderella was played by freshman Audrey Eastman and junior Jenn Brisebois on their respective nights.  

After the show, Eastman expressed her excitement and gratitude for receiving this opportunity at such a young age.  

“I was nervous I wasn’t going to make dance company because I was a freshman…” Eastman said. “[Being the lead] was really awesome.”

After the curtain had closed on the fairytale, the curtain reopened to reveal dancers clad in glitter unitards and leather pants, completely shifting the tone for the jazz, tap and aerial’s rendition of Nardone’s original creation, “Ooh, La Paree!”  

Set in a Parisian nightclub, this edgy production told the tale of rich versus poor through a compilation of techno, jazz and cabaret music.  Aerial students were suspended from the ceiling on silks, plastic boxes and metal rings while others tapped, stomped and high kicked in flashy costumes with intensity.  

Showstoppers included junior Abigail White’s tap skills, senior Driss Dallahi’s pretzel-like flexibility on the silks and juniors Marissa and Miranda Parker’s aerial duet.  

In an interview after the show, Nardone commented on her theme of class division by saying that she found it evolve into a statement due to the current political climate in the United States. This was illustrated through varying costumes and the dancers portraying the “poor” performing onstage for the “rich.”

Nardone emphasized that her message of the show was one of redemption.

“Keeping people down, it will come back and get you, of course it will,” Nardone said. “People are not going to put up with it.”

Though the show styles may have differed drastically, all of the faculty involved in directing and choreographing the show agreed on one thing: they loved working with their cast.

“We love like family we fight like family but every single kid up there has inspired me to be a better teacher, a better choreographer,” Marino said. “ [We] couldn’t ask for a better group of kids that just work so hard to get better…they work hard to make something great happen.”

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