This year’s performance marks the 16th anniversary of Dance Facets, an eclectic mix of student and faculty work presented by the Dance Department of Northwest Florida State College. The diverse choreography meanders from hip-hop and jazz to emotional contemporary, then on to classical ballet. The combination of styles keeps loyal fans coming back year after year.
There will be two evening performances, April 17 and 18, beginning at 7:30 p.m., on the Mattie Kelly Arts Center Mainstage. The full evening runs about 90 minutes with a brief intermission.
Once again student choreographers have challenged themselves by using relevant themes such as bullying, family ties and freedom as frameworks for their pieces. Dance Director Joe Taylor is proud of his kids. “This group of 37 students has pushed themselves to the limit,” he says. “They are hard workers, and whether performing or choreographing, each of them has grown so much.”
Faculty members Ulli Dunbar, Wendy Justice, Kelly Murdock and Taylor provide a consistent and rigorous training regime to boost their students to the next level. “If folks out there are regulars at our Dance Facets performances, our students’ growth is clear,” says Taylor. “We set high standards for training and want to inspire each of them to reach their potential.”
Every year the department presents some exciting opportunities for the dancers. Knowing how important it is to broaden a young artist’s experiences beyond the city limits, Taylor and faculty members offer exposure to other professionals.
In February, students took a master class with the illustrious performer-choreographer-director Edward Villella. To date, Villella is recognized as the greatest male ballet dancer produced in America, and he has received nearly every important honor given to artists in the United States. Adds Taylor: “Villella is a legend, and to witness him teaching our students was a thrill. The kids soaked up his wisdom, humor and love of dance.”
This past month, the touring company of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers participated in the Broadway Series at the Mattie Kelly Arts Center. One of the distinguished dancers, Joshua Kolberg, gave Dance Department students a contemporary class.
What exactly is Contemporary Dance? If one is observing, they might see the use of controlled legwork, emphasized in ballet, or movement that incorporates the stress of the torso, as in modern dance. Throw in a variety of dance vocabulary that was once considered avant-garde or experimental— contract-release, fall and recovery— along with quick changes in rhythm, speed and direction, and you have it. Contemporary could be viewed as a bit of dance history in motion.
This is the second year the department has presented a sampling from Dance Facets for the Walton County Boys and Girls Clubs. They plan on making this an annual event. Taylor says, “It gets the performance jitters out of the way and exposes and encourages kids in this community to love the arts.”
Next month, nine of the show’s dancers will head to Niceville’s sister city of Noirmoutier, France, to perform excerpts from the Dance Facets faculty works. Dance Facets provides something for everyone. The youthful onstage energy provided by student choreographers Brook Austin, John Delgado, Laura Griffin, Kyrsten Johnson, Max Murdock, Carla Von Kaenel and Samuel Melecio Zambrano cannot be beat.
For ticket info, call (850) 729-6000 or visit www.MattieKellyArtsCenter.org.