Contemporary Dance Ensemble Celebrates 10-Year Anniversary

The Dance 163 Contemporary Dance Ensemble (CDE) class celebrates 10 years of their annual dance concert with its special 10th-anniversary contemporary production, “Directions: One Breath at a Time.”

“Directions: One Breath at a Time” displayed a true art of emotion and movement through dance as the ensemble’s first virtual performance and was inspired by the concept of the moments in time people are living in. The production took place from March 12-20.

The possibility of the show being held was slim due to the constant change in COVID-19 protocols for in-person instruction. Dance 163 is a two-semester course and was one of the few in-person classes for fall 2020.

Artistic director of the CDE Kenneth Balint pushed for the production to take place for his students but faced challenges due to the pandemic.

“The biggest challenge was not having an audience. Performing to an empty house was just weird, the atmosphere was dead and had no energy,” Balint said. “The dancers had to support themselves.”

Although “Directions: One Breath at a Time” was held virtually, Balint said that the CDE received a great amount of support and encouragement from the audience.

“A lot of people are making extra efforts to support the arts and students this year. Sometimes it’s just the prospect of having something be taken away from you that makes it a bit more valuable to where you want to reach out and experience it,” Balint said.

With only 12-foot areas for each dancer, the production was only allowed nine dancers in order to fit the risk assessment for the studio and stage. Compared to last year, there were twice as many dancers.

The nine Fresno State students that performed in the production were Nicholas Castro, Khalil Curry, Megan Evans, Cory Faamausili, Fatima Flores, Alicia Longoria, Jessica Lopez Morales, Jose Ruiz and Siena Simas.

Photo Courtesy of Miguel A. Gastelum

There were also three student choreographers as the department couldn’t bring outside choreographers from across the country.

The student choreographers were seniors Ruiz, Morales and Castro who are all earning their degrees in dance. 

Ruiz choreographed and was also the costume designer for his piece titled “June 24th,” which was a contemporary style performance that conveyed dissociation. The theme of the performance was inspired by Ruiz feeling disassociated from everything around him. 

Castro was the choreographer and costume design coordinator for his piece called “Amateur,”. which played a role in each of the students choreographed pieces about, “designated spaces and the bodies and lives that live within them,” Balint said in the production program. 

Morales said she’s been dancing since she was 16 years old and this was her first time as a student choreographer. 

She was the choreographer for the piece titled “Catharsis,” which told the story of grief and loss. 

“Dance to me is being able to move freely with no boundaries. It’s freedom,” Morales said.

“My goal was for the audience to be impacted by the choreography through a computer screen…everyone worked so hard to create a piece with some type of connection without physical touch,” she said.

One highlight of the dance ensemble’s production was the performance of, “This is NOT the Tony Bennett Concert,” which was a celebratory performance for the group’s 10-year anniversary. 

“This is NOT the Tony Bennett Concert” featured previous dancers from past performances and nine current dancers in the CDE class. 

Choreographed by Balint, this piece paid tribute to the 2005, 2012, 2016 and 2021 casts of this particular dance work. 

Balint helped choreograph multiple pieces throughout the CDE’s performance and even acted as the artistic director for “We Work Alone Together” which offered a glimpse into the seven different shots of daily life within a 10 x 10 cube. 

Other pieces throughout the night such as “Solo Project/COVID-19 Style” included both faculty and students in a collaborative performance that allowed members of the ensemble to showcase their talents before the spotlight was passed onto the next dancer. 

In the “Directions: One Breath at a Time” program, Balint made sure to thank those from the Arts & Humanities Department who helped in the creation of this production. 

“I would like to thank Arts and Humanities Interim Dean [Honora] Chapman, Associate Dean La Porta, Theatre and Dance Department Chair J. Daniel Herring and Theatre Professor Liz [Elizabeth] Crifasi for their steadfast support in making this production possible. I am delighted to present the nine dedicated, determined and talented dancers of the Contemporary Dance Ensemble in “Directions One Breath at a Time.”

Written with contribution by Halle Sembritzki

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