Precocious teen-age dancers take the stage in Muses of Terpsicorps, Stars of Tomorrow, a debut performance by Asheville’s new junior dance company. Forged by Heather Maloy, the director and choreographer of Terpsicorps Theatre of Dance, and by Michele Lee’s Center Stage Dance Studio, the collaborative performance project strives to showcase the accomplishments, strength and dedication of dancers emerging from Center Stage.
The work presented in Muses is extremely challenging and includes excerpts from acclaimed ballets such as Don Quixote, Beauty and the Beast and Les Sylphides. “They amaze me,” says Maloy, who is directing and choreographing the show. “Three of my dancers are in 9th grade and are performing classical works that the most famous ballerinas in the world dance.” Muses is an ambitious undertaking that the company hopes will jump-start the Terpsicorps season.
The concert also offers an opportunity to see Asheville-trained dancers in their “fledgling state,” says Maloy. “These are kids that don’t have a doubt that they are going to be professionals, so it’s an opportunity to see a future dancer in the making. There is something endearing about watching a kid that age approach such a daunting project: It’s huge in scope,” says Maloy, proudly reporting that four of Muses’ featured dancers have been accepted to the North Carolina School of the Arts. “This is their chance to show off before they go away.”
For dancers Lorraine Conti, Kelsey Lee, Logan Ling, Anthony Sigler and Sarah Margaret Qualley, working up to the performance has been an invaluable learning experience: “The hours of class and rehearsal in preparation for this performance have allowed me to not only become a stronger and more technical dancer, but also to grow as a performer and an artist,” writes Sigler, 17, describing his experience preparing for Muses. “I couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity at this stage in my career.”
“This experience has helped me to begin to understand the depth of artistry needed for ballet,” writes Ling, 14. A fellow dancer, Conti, 15, writes that “Rehearsing the selections for the performance has made me more confident and a much stronger dancer. Heather pushes me to my limit … then asks for more!”
Muses demands a lot from these dancers, who will perform three classical pas de deux (duets) and contemporary works of ballet that display a range of ability, technical skill and artistry. The pas de deux from Don Quixote is known for its level of difficulty, which Maloy describes as a “high-wow-factor” piece. Filled with turns, jumps and leaps, the duet promises to impress. “Blue Bird,” a classical piece from Beauty and the Beast, tells the story of a princess and her pet bird through graceful, precise movement.
On the contemporary front, “Like Regular Chickens,” choreographed especially for the North Carolina School of the Arts’ annual festival, is set to a drum-and-bass piece by Amon Tobin, and is “totally abstract,” describes Maloy. Audiences will have the chance to see an excerpt from Terpsicorps’ summer show focusing on life in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Sigler’s solo “A Prayer for New Orleans” is as a soulful, heartfelt piece about mourning.
It’s worth noting that contemporary ballet is more typical of Terpsicorps’ style. Classical ballet emphasizes mastery of line and technique, focusing on creating clear angles with a body in motion. Contemporary ballet is more of a melding between modern dance and ballet: It pushes classical technique off its center, stretching the movement, tipping it off balance and incorporating floor work into the material.
Focusing on detail is crucial in helping students develop, tells Maloy, and working towards a goal — a concert at Diana Wortham Theater — has transformed her dancers: “The have become artists, not just technicians.”
The Muses of Terpsicorps, Stars of Tomorrow will be performed on Sunday, May 16, at 7:30 p.m. at Diana Wortham Theatre. $12. Info: www.terpsicorps.org, www.dwtheatre.com or 257-4530.