Vassar Repertory Dance Theatre’s 31st annual gala this weekend

VRDT dancers in “Chairs” by Zvi Gotheiner. (photo by Rachel Garbade)

VRDT dancers in “Chairs” by Zvi Gotheiner. (photo by Rachel Garbade)

Although students there can’t take it as a major, dance – ballet, modern and jazz – has long been a big deal at Vassar College. It has its own department, providing the entire student body with popular electives in dance technique and performance, as well as required movement classes for Theatre Arts majors. And its resident company, the Vassar Repertory Dance Theatre (VRDT), has been in existence for three decades now. The Bardavon 1869 Opera House will host the company’s 31st annual gala this weekend, with performances on Saturday, March 2 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, March 3 at 3 p.m.

An essential part of the VRDT learning tradition is bringing in renowned guest choreographers to work with the students each year, and the program for the gala will reflect this involvement with pieces by Zvi Gotheiner and Brian Reeder, along with dances created by Vassar professors and students. Gotheiner is one of New York City’s most popular ballet teachers, and his ZviDance modern company features his choreography. The VRDT will perform excerpts from Gotheiner’s acclaimed work Chairs, which has been newly restaged for the company by the choreographer.

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As for Reeder, he’s not just an artist-in-residence at Vassar this year; he’s standing in as the VRDT’s acting artistic director while professor John Meehan is on leave. Reeder’s performance career has included stints with three of the world’s most respected dance companies: the New York City Ballet (1986-1990), William Forsythe’s Ballet Frankfurt (1990-1993) and American Ballet Theatre (1994-2003). He was the focus of filmmaker Elliot Caplan’s documentary project 15 Days Of Dance: The Making of Ghost Light. Continuing Reeder’s penchant for creating quirky dances, the VRDT will perform his brand-new modern work Nurse, which is set to the Erick Moe composition “Dead Elf Tugboat” for flute and keyboard.

Meehan will still be there in spirit. Ballet fans can look forward to his Petipa Études: six classical variations based on choreography by the great Marius Petipa. Another full-time professor of Dance at Vassar, VRDT resident choreographer Steve Rooks, will be represented by his sleek modern work Cellos, which he describes as “an abstract work with one clear intention: to celebrate the magnificent abilities of the two cellists who perform this music.”

Kathy Wildberger, senior lecturer in Dance and Drama, created the poetic and haunting modern work Glimpse, which she calls “a post-apocalyptic search for direction that is brimming with passion and force.” The piece is set to the first movement from Estonian composer Arvo Part’s 1997 work Tabula Rasa for two violins, string orchestra and prepared piano. Newly created for the gala is Classical Glance by adjunct instructor of Dance Abby Saxon, which explores the wit and joyous freedom of moving in the jazz idiom.

Also on the gala program will be widely varied new works choreographed by nine VRDT members: Vassar seniors Eleni Dembo, Chelsea Peterson-Salahuddin, Kiara Segal and Anna Wilen; juniors Jeremy Busch and Isabella Kosmacher; sophomores Alexandra Hamilton, Emma King and Katy Walter; and freshmen Camille Delgardo and Kelsey Greeway.

“Our 2013 Bardavon gala is a special celebration with strong repertory of both existing and brand-new works and a very talented company of dancers,” Reeder promises. “Perhaps the best-kept dance secret in the Hudson Valley is that these concerts aren’t just for the Vassar community, but for all people who enjoy dance.”

Tickets to the Vassar Repertory Dance Theatre’s 31st annual gala performances cost $11 for general admission, $9 for students, seniors and the Vassar campus community. They can be obtained by contacting the Vassar College Department of Dance at (845) 437-7470, dancetix@vassar.edu or www.vassar.edu/vrdt, from the Bardavon box office at (845) 473-2072 or via Ticketmaster at (800) 745-3000. Visit https://dance.vassar.edu/vrdt for more information about the dance company.

Vassar Repertory Dance Theatre gala, Saturday, March 2, 8 p.m., Sunday, March 3, 3 p.m., $11/$9, Bardavon 1869 Opera House, 35 Market Street, Poughkeepsie; (845) 437-7470, dancetix@vassar.edu, www.vassar.edu/vrdt.

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