Contemporary Dance Ensemble kicks off a week of performances Friday

After months of preparation, Fresno State’s Contemporary Dance Ensemble is ready to share a series of dances with performances starting Friday at the John Wright Theatre.

“This is NOT the Tony Bennett Concert” will have daily show times at 7:30 p.m. from Feb. 12 to 20, along with a 2 p.m. matinee performance on Sunday, Feb. 14. There will be no performances on Feb. 15.

The show, which is a series of six different works, will cover a wide range of themes, said Katarina Klass, a senior and deaf-education major who will be performing in four of the works.

Three of the dances are being presented for the first time.

“Some tell stories, some are abstract,” said artistic director Kenneth Balint. “It’s kind of a mix of both.”

The 10-member cast, which includes Fresno State students and alumni, worked on their pieces for all of last semester.

“We always perform with this group, Contemporary Dance Ensemble, in the spring,” Balint said. “We audition for the company directly after the spring performance for the next year.”

The show will consist of three pieces, an intermission, followed by three more pieces. It will be roughly an hour and a half long, said Gianna McCurry, a Fresno State student who will appear in four of the works.

There’s no vocals or narration in the performances, so the dancers must use their bodies and movement to carry the plot of each performance, Klass said.

The costumes for the works include lights affixed to the dancers and paper mâché masks, McCurry said, while stage props include a giant inflatable ball with a dancer inside, during a piece.

The title — “This is NOT the Tony Bennett Concert” — comes from one of the pieces, which was written after a series of around 10 phone calls and messages left on Balint’s office phone in 2005, Balint said.

“They were kind of weird and bizarre questions about Tony Bennett — the caller was looking for information about him,” Balint said.  

The upcoming performances will be the third time the title work has been staged.

Two of the works in the performance were staged by guest choreographers, Anandha Ray and Michael Nikerson-Rossi. Both of them came on separate occasions for a period of just several days each, during which the cast had to learn the entire works.

“We try to bring in choreographers so that the students have as much varied experience as possible,” Balint said.

Tickets are $17 for adults; $15 for Fresno State faculty, staff, alumni and military; and $10 for students.

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