A fusion of six individual contemporary dance pieces will come together on Friday in the Joy! Shout! Contemporary Dance Ensemble.
Each dance piece will showcase different themes, including humor, philosophy, “scary” and athletic.
“Some of the pieces are entertaining, so [audiences] should laugh a little bit,” said professor Kenneth Balint, one of the choreographers. “It should make them think ‘what is the piece trying to say?’ ”
He hopes that pieces that are vague and philosophical will spark curiosity among audience members and make them think hard to try and understand it.
There is another piece where more than 100 yards of silk material is used.
“It’s very visual,” Balint said. “It’s just beautiful to watch, with the lighting, and the way the material is manipulated it’s like watching a liquid art – a living sculpture.”
This dance ensemble is performed by Dance 163, a contemporary dance class at Fresno State. Performing are 12 dancers and they were taught by five choreographers. Balint choreographed two of the dances, and Leesha Melson, one of the dancers, was also a choreographer.
This is Melson’s third consecutive year participating in the Contemporary Dance Ensemble. She said she feels honored to be able to not only perform but also work together with the dancers.
“I am very pleased with how wonderfully the dancers have been working this year,” she said. “Each of them has a special talent and I have learned so much from them. It has been an honor to work with them and I’m excited to see the pieces come alive.”
The other three pieces are taught by famous choreographers who took the time to visit Fresno State and teach the class for about four to five days. They are Rogelio Lopez, Anandha Ray and Martha Kelly Fierro.
Balint hopes that people would come to the concert, enjoy themselves and “have a nice night out.” The ensembles, he feels, are catered to all ages.
“It’s kind of a wide-ranging concert and that’s designed on purpose so that we can build an audience and it’s always better to perform with people in the audience than empty seats,” he said.
Balint is proud of his students. Despite their demanding schedules, they always find time to perfect their art, Balint said. Besides their normal school hours and work, they had to set aside 15 to 20 hours a week for rehearsals. They also have to attend outside class-period rehearsals.
“Joy! Shout!” is not only the name of the concert, but also the name of one particular piece.
“That title was picked because that piece is so energetic and athletic. It’s kind of like a statement that the dancers want to communicate that what they do is very joyful and very exciting,” Balint said.
Through the dance performances, Balint and his students hope to convey that dance “isn’t just one thing,” but holds much meaning and is universal.
“Dance is used for many different purposes — entertainment, culture, religion, and there’s a little bit of everything,” he said. “There’s some very, very serious pieces; there’s some ridiculously funny pieces. Contemporary is a loose term but it means a bunch of different genres, different styles.”
It is an inspiration to Balint to have so many talented students who are interested in performing dance theater.
“It’s incredible, I love it,” he said about working with them. “It’s the most exciting part of my schedule because they are so invested in learning, in training, in creating. It’s a highly collaborative learning environment. It’s very energized.”
Melson feels it was incredibly a true blessing working with everyone to make the ensemble a success.
“Contemporary Dance Ensemble is the perfect place to have the opportunity to meet and dance with amazing dancers and choreographers,” she said.
Part of the goals of this ensemble is to provide dance majors at Fresno State the exposure of performing in front of a live audience.
“The way that they can develop is to perform,” he said. “It’s one thing rehearsing, but our performances are really the end game. You got to get on stage, you got to perform, that’s how you hone your craft.”
The Joy! Shout! Contemporary Dance Ensemble performances are held in the John Wright Theatre and run through Feb 23. With eight running performances, Balint hopes that the concert will be able to fit easily into people’s schedules and they can go and witness all the excitement and talent.
“They devoted so much of their lives into doing these,” Balint said. “I think that comes across when you watch it and that certainly adds to the enjoyment.”