School of Dance presents first Student Gala

Kaledora Kiernan-Linn, Justine Gildea and Clara Ruf-Maldonado will perform David Morse’s “Concerto Grosso” at 2:30 p.m. Sunday in the Amphitheater. Photo by Adam Birkan.

Lucas Bilbro and Isabella LaFreniere will perform George Balanchine’s “Serenade” at the Student Gala at 2:30 p.m. Sunday in the Amphitheater. Photo by Adam Birkan.

Rabab Al-Sharif | Staff Writer

North Carolina Dance Theatre dancer David Morse is a triple threat, but his second and third talents aren’t singing and acting.

The dancer, pianist and choreographer will present his ballet “Concerto Grosso” in the Chautauqua School of Dance’s Student Gala at 2:30 p.m. Sunday in the Amphitheater.

It will be his first ballet performed at Chautauqua.

Morse, who grew up dancing at NCDT’s school in Charlotte, N.C., started dancing when he was five.

He began to play the piano a few years later and learned to choreograph in his early teens, he said.

Morse first started accompanying ballet classes in his mid-teens because he had nothing to do while the two friends he carpooled with were in pointe class.

“I was always just stuck waiting around waiting for their parents or my mom to pick us up,” he said.

Morse asked the teacher, Kathryn Moriarty, if he could play piano for the class.

“She said, ‘Sure — have you ever played a class before?’ ” he said.

Morse hadn’t, but told Moriarty he could, because he understood how the class was structured and how to play piano.

Morse said he started to choreograph at NCDT workshops in his early teens.

He choreographed “Concerto Grosso” in 2010. It was chosen to represent NCDT in the Southeast Regional Ballet Association’s Regional Dance America Festival where it won the Habich-Corey Emerging Choreography Award in 2010.

He said he is excited to see it performed by nine of the girls from the School of Dance.

“It’s always nice to see a fresh interpretation of a piece,” Morse said.

The piece reflects the music of the same name, by Ernest Bloch.

Bloch created the music in 1925 in response to his students at the Cleveland Institute of Music harassing him, because they didn’t think it was possible to create something exciting and interesting using old-fashioned composition methods, Morse said.

“He was writing this piece of music to prove them wrong,” he said.

Morse wanted to do the same with dance.

“Vibrant, exciting dance pieces can still be made nowadays without having to come up with anything weird,” he said. “You can still use old-fashioned compositional methods to make something exciting.”

Mark Diamond, Chautauqua Dance associate artistic director, will present a new work, “Foresight,” danced to the first and third movements of Philip Glass’ Violin Concerto No. 1.

The contemporary piece is a loose interpretation of the Iliad from the viewpoint of Cassandra, a princess given the gift of prophecy by an infatuated Apollo, Diamond said. When Cassandra rejected Apollo, he cursed her so that no one would believe her prophecies.

“Everyone thought that she was crazy because she was cursed,” he said.

Students will also perform George Balanchine’s “Serenade,” restaged by répétiteur Patricia McBride, NCDT associate artistic director.

The ballet, which premiered by the American Ballet in 1935, was the first ballet Balanchine choreographed in America.

“It’s still current, it’s still a challenge for the dancers today,” McBride said.

It calls for a strong corps de ballet, she said

“The corps — they work as hard as the principals,” she said. “They really have to breathe together, to feel together.”

“Serenade” begins subtly with measured, delicate movements and magical lighting, McBride said.

“The audience just gasps. There are a lot of images that you don’t forget,” she said.

Michael Vernon’s new classical ballet, “Memories,” also requires a strong corps, Vernon said.

The piece is short, but intricate, he said, and is reminiscent of Russian ballets. The second movement of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 2 is what inspired Vernon to create the ballet.

School of Dance Associate Artistic Director Maris Battaglia choreographed “Mozart” for a group of students who arrived just a week ago.