Thursday May 16, 2013

BRATTLEBORO -- All of the graceful moves unfolding on the New England Youth Theatre stage over the next two weekends, when the Brattleboro School of Dance presents its annual spring performances, tell the story of one more, overarching, graceful move -- the transition of the school from founder Kathleen Keller to a new era under new owner Jennifer Moyse.

Since acquiring the school last fall, Moyse has, in the best dance tradition, struck a perfect balance between maintaining the values and spirit Keller and the BSD family nurtured since the school’s founding in 1976 and the new directions Moyse wants to take it.

"It’s going really well," said Moyse. "I keep waiting for the first shoe to drop. ... It’s a great community of people who support what’s done here."

Heading that list is Keller herself, who formed a fast friendship with Moyse that led to the sale and has remained on the faculty. Last Friday, you could find her right where she always has been in the weeks leading up to the BSD’s spring show -- in the costume room, stitching like mad to help get things ready.

Come Friday, Keller will take the stage as one of the dancers in "Evolution," BSD’s spring show, which opens May 17 and runs through May 26, with performances Friday through Sunday each week at NEYT, 100 Flat St.

The title, "Evolution," was chosen with care and is rich in meaning.


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Among the 14 pieces that nearly 40 current BSD students, as well as faculty and alumni, are performing are several that have been presented before and are being remounted with the current generation of dancers.

"Evolution" also refers to the transition that has occurred with seamless elegance at BSD this year.

"It’s really the reflection of the evolution with me as owner," said Moyse. "I’m working really hard to preserve the level of ballet instruction. ... I just want to bring all the other styles of dance up to that level. I think the show will be a reflection of the beginning of that journey."

Audiences at "Evolution" will see dance in many styles -- ballet, modern, jazz, tap, hip-hop and belly dancing -- performed by dancers ages 7 and way up in pieces choreographed by faculty and guests of the school. All the performers auditioned to get in the show and have committed extra time outside of regular BSD classes to work on the pieces.

In addition to the dancers and choreographers, "Evolution" represents the entire Brattleboro School of Dance family in action. In addition to legs, feet and toes, it’s all hands on deck to make this show happen. Moyse has been dazzled by the support.

"People constantly, in the last couple of weeks, have been coming up to me and saying ‘I’ve always done this, should I do it again?’" she said.

Moyse is getting used to saying "yes" and "thank you" a lot.

Of course, when all is said and done, "Evolution" is about beautiful dancing -- and people who go will see plenty of that. The dancers can’t wait to show you.

"It’s a challenge, but I love it so much. I’m willing to put the work into it," said BSD student Victoria Jaenson. "Performing is great. I love to perform. It’s nice to have an audience to make you strive better."

"It takes a lot of my life, but it enriches it so much that it’s worth it. ... I just get sheer joy out of it," added BSD student Sonya Marx. "Maybe people who go to the show will see why I like it so much."

And since proceeds benefit the Brattleboro School of Dance Scholarship Fund, audiences will be helping future dancers experience the things.

"It’s really helped me discover what I want to do in life," said BUHS senior and BSD student Annie Caltrider, who is off next fall to Montclair State University as a musical theater major. "Dancing is really about personal expression and accomplishment for me."

Performances of "Evolution" are at 7:30 p.m., on Fridays and Saturdays and 4 p.m., on Sundays. Tickets can be purchased at Everyone’s Books, at 25 Elliot St. 

Admission is $13 general and $11 for students and seniors.

The performances are being dedicated to the memory of Sally Whipple, mother of BSD teacher and choreographer Holly Johnson and a longtime loyal fan of the Brattleboro School of Dance.

For information, call the Brattleboro School of Dance at 802-254-6884 or visit www.brattleboroschoolofdance.com or www.facebook.com/brattleboroschoolofdance.