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Dance Gala to feature soloist with W.Va. ties

By Judy E. Hamilton, Staff writer

People might think Savannah Lowery — a respected soloist with the New York City Ballet, one of the foremost dance companies in the world — is a newcomer to West Virginia when she performs June 25 in the FestivALL Dance Gala, but they would be wrong.

“I have quite a history with West Virginia and I have a great connection to the state — my family. My mom is from Pineville. My aunt and uncle live in Danville. Although I was born and raised in Florida, I’ve performed ‘The Nutcracker’ with Jerry Rose’s Beckley Dance Theatre several times,” said Lowery in a recent telephone interview from her home in New York City.

The 29-year-old Lowery has been a New Yorker for several years.

She entered the School of American Ballet, the official school of New York City Ballet, full time in 1999.

In 2001, she became an apprentice with the NYCB, and in 2002 she joined the company as a member of the corps de ballet. She was promoted to the rank of soloist in 2007.

Lowery will be joined by Zachary Catazaro, a soloist with the NYCB, and Claire Von Enck, corps de ballet member of NYCB, for the FestivALL performance, as guests of the Dance Gala at FestivALL.

“With the Balanchine Ballet, the repertoire we have is very different. Audience members are in for a little more playful and laid-back, more fun, performance than they might be anticipating. It’s not a formal performance and it won’t bore you to death like some people think of ballet,” Lowery said.

Nina Denton Pasinetti is the dance chairwoman for FestivALL and has been for each of the 10 years of the event.

“For a city to become a work of art, dance must be featured,” Denton Pasinetti said.

“It is a special thrill for Charleston audiences to see dancers trained in the Balanchine style from the company he developed to dance that style. The guest dancers are from varied company ranks and this should be very appealing and inspiring, not only for audience members, but also for West Virginia dancers,” she added.

Denton Pasinetti said she contacted the NYCB and specifically requested that the guests be able to perform some selections from the George Balanchine repertoire.

“The NYCB is one of the foremost dance companies in the world with a roster of spectacular dancers and an unparalleled repertory. The company was founded in 1948 by the late George Balanchine, who had defected from Russia, and Lincoln Kirstein.

“Balanchine trained dancers in an innovative style and his choreography became world renowned. Balanchine’s new American developed form of ballet was known for its linear purity, sharpness of attack, and overall speed and musicality. He is considered the choreographer of the 20th century,” Denton Pasinetti said.

“Our guests, Savannah Lowery and Zachary Catazaro, will perform two pieces from the Balanchine repertory, both arranged with the Balanchine Trust: pas de deux from ‘Diamonds,’ music by Tchaikovsky, and ‘Who Cares?,’ from the ballet ‘Who Cares?,’ music by George Gershwin. Our other guest dancer is Claire Von Enck, corps de ballet member. … She will perform “Bouree en Trompette,” choreography by Marius Petipa,” Denton Pasinetti said.

Lowery fondly remembers the first time she saw a Balanchine Ballet.

“I remember seeing my first Balanchine Ballet when I was a child. It was so romantic and it really touched me and sparked my interest. I’m hoping bringing Balanchine Ballet to FestivALL will spark the interest of young dancers like it did for me,” Lowery said.

Seventeen dancers from the Charleston Ballet, directed by Kim Pauley, will perform two pieces: “Romanian Folk Dances” en pointe and a suite from “The Flappers,” which represents 1920s-era dancing.

“These are fun and lively dances from a ballet originally choreographed by our founder, Andre Van Damme. I would hope that the audience, both seasoned and otherwise, would be uplifted by the experience of watching a varied dance performance with professionally trained dancers. I hope that they would have been exposed to something new and different that they had not seen before. I always wish that the audience leaves wishing it was not yet over, that they continue to think about what they saw, perhaps having a discussion with someone about the performance, feeling that they had a good time and that they were glad about the choice they made to attend the show,” Pauley said.

Twelve dancers with River City Youth Ballet Ensemble, directed by Michelle Raider, will perform a varied program of ballet, contemporary and Appalachian based dance with “Internal Abstraction with Three Eyes,” “East of Sam Black Church” and “Foot Traffic.”

The FestivALL Dance Gala is sponsored by Aqua-Clear Inc., Suttle & Stalnaker PLLC and the Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation.

Tickets cost $20 and are available at the Clay Center box office (call 304-561-3570), Taylor Books, Backstage Bodywear, from either of the Charleston dance companies and at the door.

Free dance programming also will be featured throughout the 10-day FestivALL event. Dancers from January’s Academy of Dance Company will perform on the Sunrise Carriage Trail from 1 to 4 p.m. June 22.

Carli Mareneck and Friends, including violinist Adam DeGraff, will perform “Reindeer Dream” in Davis Park at 1 p.m. June 28.

Attack Theatre, from Pittsburgh, will perform site-based dance and music around city art pieces “Hallelujah” at the Clay Center at noon June 28; “Unity” at Haddad Riverfront Park at 3:30 p.m. June 28; and at Charly “Jupiter” Hamilton’s “West Side Wonder Mural” at 3 p.m. June 29.

A free modern dance class with artists from Attack Theatre will take place at 10 a.m. June 29 in the lobby of the Clay Center. Reservations are recommended for the dance class. Call 304-470-0489 or email director@festivallcharleston.com.

The Capital High Dance Company will perform in the Clay Center Maier Performance Hall lobby at 1 p.m. June 29.

Flash mobs from Lee’s School of Dance will appear at various FestivALL locations, clogging performances take place at Taste-of-ALL, and belly dancers will perform on Capitol Street on June 28 and 29.

FestivALL is seen by the Charleston dance community as an important way to promote dance as a form of art in West Virginia.

“I feel that it is important in two ways. There are many visitors here during FestivALL and they are exposed to the high level of performances that are offered here in our community by our dancers. FestivALL also brings out many residents to see dance for the first time and hopefully they will continue to frequent performances and become regular audience members,” Pauley said.

For additional information about the Charleston Ballet, visit thecharlestonballet.com. For additional information about River City Youth Ballet Ensemble, visit rcyb.org.

Reach Judy E. Hamilton at judy.hamilton@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1230.


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