Dance into spring

May 07, 2009

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. -- Shepherdstown School of Dance plans to cover broad ground at its spring recital Saturday and Sunday at Frank Center Theater.

Artistic director Emily Romine said the recital has three focal points: a classical ballet "Coppélia Suite"; an adaptation of "West Side Story" for Broadway-style jazz; and "Appalachian Spring," a neoclassical ballet version that Romine said falls some where between.

Principal dancers include Lisa Pulse, 28, of Martinsburg, W.Va., and Joshua Chambers, one of Romine's former students who studied dance at Shenandoah University in Winchester, Va., and is now living in Martinsburg.

This year, Romine revisits "West Side Story," which the dance school presented in 2005 without a lead male dancer. Chambers will dance as Tony in this version.


"Coppélia Suite" is what Romine called her big ballet piece. It's the sort of dance most die-hard ballet companies include in their repertoire. And like other well-known ballets -- um, "Nutcracker" -- it's very old and there are many versions.

"Coppélia's" storyline is based on a story by E.T.A. Hoffman. In Hoffman's story, a man invents a life-size, dancing doll that becomes the source of one man's infatuation and his current lover's jealousy. Romine said she patterned her choreography after the 19th-century dancer Maurius Ivanovich Petipa, known as the father of Russian Ballet.

"Appalachian Spring" features neoclassical-style choreography set to Aaron Copeland's "Simple Gift," and is broken down in four sections with a complicated pas de duex in the middle. Romine said she steered clear of an earlier, modern-dance version choreographed by the late Martha Graham. "Appalachian Spring" was one of Graham's most famous pieces.

In Romine's version, Pulse spends lots of time on point -- particularly on her left leg, generally a dancer's weaker leg -- during her duet with Chambers. But Romine said Pulse and Chambers make it all seem seamless.

Shepherdstown School of Dance has two recitals a year, one during the winter holiday season and another in the spring, typically during Mother's Day weekend.

Romine said the idea is to give all the dancers a chance to shine. It will be the first recital for some of this weekend's 80 performers, the youngest of whom is 4. Even when they're outside of the studio, when the dancers are on stage, Romine said there's always a lesson to be learned.

"I want them to understand it's not just about steps -- it's about the feel of something, and connecting with the audience," Romine said.

If you go ...

WHAT: Shepherdstown School of Dance spring performance

WHEN: 7 p.m. Saturday, May 9, and 2 p.m. Sunday, May 10

WHERE: Frank Center Theater, Shepherd University, Shepherdstown, W.Va.

COST: $12; $10 in advance

MORE: Call 304-876-8277.

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