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A Stomp, a Ballet and a Vaudeville Review

Dancers from five two Dance Company (photo credit: Paul Dubois)

Steffi Nossen School of Dance (SNSD) has offered its annual Choreography Showcase, a curated selection of dance works, for almost 50 years. The tradition continues this year on December 4 at the Emelin Theatre in Mamaroneck.

When it began in the mid-1970s, the Choreography Showcase offered a rare chance for dancers who were used to performing for the same tight-knit New York City audience, to perform for – and get feedback from – a broader audience in Westchester.

The importance of the showcase has not diminished over the years. According to SNSD’s executive director, Shelley K. Grantham: “Dance…is a world where communication, collaboration and
community connections play a vital role in the creation of new works, and inspiration for the future.”

In fact, one year David Parsons, co-founder of Parsons Dance, was so inspired when attending a Showcase that he jumped onstage to do an impromptu performance for a surprised-then-captivated audience.

Grantham adds: “It is important that events like these continue so the fabric of the arts can stay connected.” Recently, the COVID-19 pandemic shook up the show’s traditional format. In 2020, the dance works were filmed and shown virtually. In 2021, the event took the form of a walking tour for a limited-capacity audience. Still, the event has stayed the course and now returns to the Emelin stage.

Grantham notes that while many of the performances over the past few years have focused on politics, the pandemic, and isolation, most of this year’s selections happen to focus on connection, community and resilience.

“We all need connection right now,” she notes. “[The show] is a bit lighter than usual, which is wonderful.” This year’s Showcase will feature ten dances which, according to Grantham, the panel feels “are diverse and representative of today’s fabric”:  Alexandra Williamson’s The Hancock Jig solo integrates modern dance with traditional Irish step dancing. Pedestrian Ballet, from Israel-born Doron Perk’s company, More Fish, merges classical ballet with free-form dance. Ankita’s duet, Revival, explores the story of shared grief, and is influenced by contemporary dance, dance theater, and forms from both South Asian and African diaspora. Hysterika Jazz Dance will perform In Pieces: A Vaudeville Review, choreographed by its artistic director, Barbara Angeline. The work is inspired by the contributions of Aida Overton Walker, an influential Black dancer, choreographer and activist in the early twentieth century. Other presenters include the women-led five two Dance Company, Jessica DiMauro Marks & Gierre Godley, Neville Dance Theatre, and Sarah Kramer.

The event also includes the Steffi Nossen Dance Company. The pre-professional company, comprised of promising high school dancers, always performs at least one piece by a notable  choreographer. This year, the Company will perform two pieces: Brink, choreographed by Janice Rosario; and Appalachian Stomp, choreographed by Michael Foley in 1996 and restaged by  Jessica DiMauro Marks, who was in the original cast.

Marks, a former SNDC member and now the School’s Artistic Director, explains that the Showcase “is an exceptionally important experience for our young dancers,” and adds that she is honored to restage Foley’s piece. Working with him as a teenager left an indelible impression on her: “Much of who I am as a teacher and choreographer sprouted from my time learning from Michael.”

The Showcase will be followed by a Q&A, during which the audience can ask questions and gain insight into the choreographic process, and the choreographers can gather invaluable feedback on
their work.

Says Grantham. “It’s a great opportunity to see what’s percolating and what’s driving our newer creators… and how they’re processing what the world is going through through the arts.”