According to Chautauqua School of Dance’s Sasha Janes, director of contemporary studies, the Alumni Dance Gala that will be performed at 8:15 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 1, in the Amphitheater will mix the past, present and future of Chautauqua’s dance program.
By featuring both alumni and current dance students, the program will not only offer a homecoming to past students, it will also offer a look into current students’ potential futures.
“These are dancers who were former students and go on to have full careers all over the world then come back to Chautauqua and perform with our current students,” Janes said.
Two of the former School of Dance students, Anna Gerberich who now works with the Joffrey Ballet, and Pete Leo Walker who now works with the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, have been working with Janes closely in preparation for the performance. The pair also performed in Chautauqua’s Special Inter-arts Matinee on Sunday, July 29.
“The two of them are really excited to be here,” Janes said.
The alumni dancers include Brooklyn Mack from the Washington Ballet, Zachary Catazaro and Isabella LaFreniere from the New York City Ballet, Jacqueline Green from the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and freelance guest artist SeHyun Jin.
Janes said he is specifically intrigued by the variety of places and companies where the alumni have worked.
“They all came from (the School of Dance) and went on to have very different and successful careers,” Janes said. “And they are back to show us what they have done.”
The program will include 10 pieces, four of which will be performed as pas de deux, with music from composers ranging from Tchaikovsky to Duke Ellington. All of the pieces will be performed en pointe with the exception of an excerpt from “Pas de Duke,” which will be performed by Green.
After 18 years of working within the dance program at Chautauqua, Janes was offered the position of curator for the Alumni Dance Gala for the first time last year.
“That was my inaugural year,” he said. “It was phenomenal.”
During Jane’s first curation of the program, he said that he brought one of the current School of Dance students onto the stage to perform with the alumni.
“Last year, I had a student who I knew in five years will be a superstar, and I included them in the program,” he said.
Janes said he decided to continue that collaboration between current students and alumni because of the way the performance mixes past, present and future. This year, 19 dancers from the School of Dance and two younger Workshop Dancers will perform with the alumni.
“These students are the future, and hopefully they get to come back in 10 years as a special guest,” Janes said. “They are thrilled to be able to perform with the returning dancers.”
In addition to the excitement that the performance offers both returning dancers and current students, some members of the Chautauqua audience have their own connections to the performers.
“A lot of the audience members actually provided scholarships for some of these dancers,” Janes said. “So it is a huge homecoming for some of these dancers.”
The Chautauqua Dance Circle will sponsor a pre-performance lecture at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 1, at Smith Wilkes Hall that will also feature School of Dance alumni.