BRATTLEBORO -- Jennifer Moyse thought long and hard about the theme for the annual spring performance of the Brattleboro School of Dance, and she's pretty happy with the choice of the title "Passage."
"I started with the idea of new beginnings," said Moyse, who is settling in and flourishing in her role as director of the Brattleboro School of Dance, which she purchased from founder Kathleen Keller in 2012. "I love double entendre, and I wanted to play with the idea of tributaries and rivers. A passage can be on a page in a book, there are passages in life and there are passages in music. There are a lot of pieces in this show that deal with transformation."
Yes, life has been about passages for Moyse and the Brattleboro School of Dance, which still, like a river, flows from its source. Keller remains a cherished and welcome presence -- she was at the Brattleboro School of Dance studios last Saturday watching as Holly Johnson coached some senior dancers in a piece called "Delicahto" -- and Moyse has taken great pains to preserve the warm, familial community Keller created and many of the great programs, while adding her own spin.
"Passage" opens this Friday and continues through May 18, at New England Youth Theatre. Performances take place at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, May 9, 10, 16 and 17, and at 4 p.m., on May 11 and 18.
More than 40 dancers, some as young as 7, some old enough that it's not polite to ask, will present 14 pieces in many styles choreographed by Brattleboro School of Dance faculty and involving current students, alumni and staff. Audiences will see high-caliber dance -- auditions for the performances are held in January and rehearsals take place above and beyond regular BSD class times. Contemporary ballet faculty member Mucuy Bolles will debut two newly choreographed pieces, "The Butterfly" and "Insomnia," while Mike DiFilippo restages "cherish the roses," a Viennese waltz. Robert Royce and Jessica Tidquist stage traditional ballet variations from "Sleeping Beauty." Nan Mann's troupe of younger dancers tell the story of "The Ugly Duckling" to music of "Swan Lake." Other selections are choreographed by Anna Bowler, Jamie Gehring, Rachel Hebert, Robin Wolf and Moyse, and styles include modern, jazz, tap, hip-hop and more.
Several members of the BSD faculty will also be dancing in the performances.
"That's also one of the things that's special about the school, Our teachers were working professionals and are still performing. Most of us can't get rid of the bug," said Moyse.
"Passage" is presented by the BSD, in association with Company of Muses, a non-profit organization whose mission is to provide for the education in the performing arts of youth and adults in New England, primarily, but not exclusively, the Brattleboro School of Dance. Proceeds from "Passage" will go toward the Brattleboro School of Dance Scholarship Fund.
Performances of "Passage" also seem a fitting time for Company of Muses to announce the Kathleen Keller Higher Education Scholarship, which goes to dancers graduating from high school to continue their training in a higher education or pre-professional training setting. That scholarship will be awarded for the first time this spring.
"It was a goal of mine when I purchased the school, to find a way of honoring her legacy. It's a way of recognizing students who have excelled and plan on continuing their education," said Moyse.
Donations to Company of Muses can be made to www.CompanyofMuses.org.
Tickets to "Passage" are $15 general, $12 for students and seniors and can be purchased at the Brattleboro School of Dance at 22 High St. (third floor), on Fridays from 5 to 7 p.m., and Saturdays from noon to 2 p.m., or at www.BrattleboroSchoolofDance.com.