Loyola Honors the Environment Through Dance

Courtesy of Alessandra MigliettiLoyola’s dance program will be performing “Ecstatic Earth: Dancing Laudato Si” at the Newhart Theater from Nov. 21-24.

Each year, Loyola’s dance program showcases the work of students who spend seven days a week bouncing between the classroom and the studio. The tradition will continue this year with a show dedicated to celebrating the environment, commemorating historical dance figures and presenting various styles of dance to audiences. “Ecstatic Earth: Dancing Laudato Si” will run Nov. 21-24 in Loyola’s Newhart Theater. 

This year’s concert is inspired by Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment, “Laudato Si,” where he urges all to speak on behalf of the Earth according to their individual abilities.

The concert starts with a collaborative piece between the dance program and the Chamber Choir called “Missa Gaia/Earth Mass” — a musical mass written by Paul Winter — according to Sandra Kaufmann, founding director of Loyola’s dance program. The idea for the number first came from Kirsten Hedegaard, Loyola’s director of choral and vocal activities, and has been in the works for three years, according to Kaufmann. She explained “Missa Gaia” will serve as a piece that celebrates the Earth.

“We felt [‘Missa Gaia’ was] a wonderful way of showing our activism, but also doing something really beautiful,” Kaufmann said. “We didn’t want to do something that is all about what is negative, it was more really in celebration and in reverence of this beautiful common home that we live in.”

The second act of the show will include multiple numbers in many different styles of dance, ranging from neoclassical modern dance to a jazz-modern fusion to classical ballet, Kaufmann said. One piece will feature choreography from the Joffrey Ballet’s Raul Casasola, a new member of Loyola’s dance faculty. 

Another, entitled “Water Study,” is a historical piece first created in 1928 by Doris Humphrey, an American dancer whose technique is taught in Loyola’s dance program, according to Kaufmann. “Water Study” is unique in that it was one of the first concert dance pieces to be performed without musical accompaniment. 

“As part of our students’ learning process, we often introduce them to masterpieces of historical repertoire,” Kaufmann said. “[Humphrey is] this very iconic, influential choreographer, … so ‘Water Study’ has some historical significance and … it’s a great, very rigorous, difficult piece for our dancers to work on.”

One number in the second act was choreographed by Loyola senior Abby Darrow, who created the piece for her dance composition class last spring. The dance faculty chose her dance, “Menswear,” to be performed in the annual show, Darrow explained.

“This is a wonderful opportunity that [the faculty] has gifted me,” Darrow said. “All four years at Loyola, I’ve looked up to all of the student choreographers, never assuming that I would be able to do it. … I’m very excited to be presenting [my] work, it’s actually an honor.”

Loyola sophomore dance student Merritt Stults said the show’s diversity will bring something for all audience members to enjoy. 

“There’s multiple different genres and styles of dance and choreographers and messages, so there’s something that everybody can connect with no matter how familiar you are with dance, and I think that’s very special,” Stults said. 

The show will begin with a preview performance at 7 p.m. Nov. 21 , followed by opening night at 7 p.m. Nov. 22 and two more performances Nov. 23 and 24 at 7 and 2 p.m., respectively. Tickets can be purchased online and range from $6-$20, with student discounts available. 

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