‘Dance Sites’ premieres new work

A Sacramento State dance performance, called Dance Sites: New Works in Choreography and Performance, is directed by dance professor Lorelei Bayne. Dance Sites, below, incorporates jazz, modern, ballet and tap pieces from faculty and students as well as pieces from guest choreographers.:Claire Padgett


A Sacramento State dance performance, called “Dance Sites: New Works in Choreography and Performance,” is directed by dance professor Lorelei Bayne. “Dance Sites,” below, incorporates jazz, modern, ballet and tap pieces from faculty and students as well as pieces from guest choreographers.:Claire Padgett

Kyrie Eberhart

For Sacramento State’s part-time staff member Lisa Ross, “Coal miner’s Granddaughter,” a dance she choreographed for this year’s “Dance Sites,” has a personal meaning.

Ross said she was inspired to choreograph “Coal miner’s Granddaughter” after her grandfather’s life in the coal mines.

“I used to visit my grandparents every summer, and my grandfather died of black lung,” Ross said. “So the subject is familiar to me.”

This contemporary piece, danced by an all-female cast and a mixture of jazz, ballet, theater, and modern dance movements, is just one of the dances for this year’s “Dance Sites: New Works in Choreography and Performance,” hosted by Sac State.

Ross’ piece was inspired by her family’s history, particularly her mother. Ross did research on the generations of women in her family that have been coal miners’ wives since the Civil War.

“I’m standing on the shoulders of women who have really suffered,” Ross said.

Director Lorelei Bayne, an assistant professor of dance, described “Dance Sites” as a “buffet of dance.” Facility members and two guest choreographers get to show their dance expertise by choreographing nine new works. The works represent many different genres and styles of dance from tap to ballet.

“There is something for everyone; and maybe even works that will surprise the viewer, and open the mind about what dance can be,” Bayne said. “The variety and quality of work is inspiring, entertaining and moving.

Students who auditioned for a chance to perform in the show presented all the choreography. One of these student dancers, senior Regina Wolins, has been a participant in “Dance Sites” for three years now.

Wolins, who once majored in environmental studies, said that watching “Dance Sites” in her freshman year became one of the catalysts for switching her major to dance.

“Seeing a piece put together the way it was really blew me away,” Wolins said.

This year, Wolins is performing both a tap number called “On the Town,” choreographed by staff member Karen Toon, as well as Ross’s “Coal miner’s Granddaughter.”

“The piece is very moving, it comes from real experience,” Wolins said.

Bayne said that show’s theme is about “choreographers realizing their own vision and showing that to others.”

“Our emerging dance artists get to see how professionals work in the studio first-hand, putting their work together,” Bayne said. “This is invaluable for our students.”

Bayne choreographed her own dance which inspired by the piece “Spillane.” It was created by 20th century composer John Zorn and is based on the crime/detective novels written by Mickey Spillane. The piece also features a variety of dance types, and an assembly of film noir-style props – a genre classified by the crime movies of the ’30s and ’40s.

Some pieces not only incorporate dancing, but other art forms as well. Professor Melissa Wynn’s piece, “Metamorphosis,” has sand art drawn by visual artist Francine West projected onto the background throughout the dance.

“The dance is about personal struggles,” Wynn said. “I asked (the dancers) what is it they draw on that helps them when times are hard. They took that, sat down and wrote the script.”

For Wynn, she has grown to respect the students she’s worked with. “When you create a dance and collaborate together, you tend to become fairly close,” she said.

Only one student was chosen to work in a solo dance for the performance. Dance major Leandro Damasco Jr. flew to Utah University in October to meet guest choreographer and dance artist from New York City, Nicholas Leichter.

Originally, Damasco was supposed to learn an old piece, but Leichter soon changed his mind and decided to make one up on the spot.

“Nick was great to work with,” Damasco said. “It was such an honor to learn a new piece from him.”

Damasco said as much as he enjoyed his opportunity, it was a bit different than working with others. “It was kind of lonely,” he said. “I’m used to dancing with other people.”

Students auditioned for the show and those who made it were assigned to the different choreographers. Most dancers worked up to twice a week for most of the semester to prepare for the show.

“It was a lot of hard work,” Wolins said. “But I like that everyone gets to dabble in different dances. You get to extend your horizons.”

Bayne said that seeing the changes in the students makes the dance worthwhile for her.

“I see them grow and deepen as performers. I see diverse students work together, and open up to new styles of dance and live performance that maybe they hadn’t thought they would be able to explore,” Bayne said. “These things are truly rewarding.”

Wynn also said that she is pleased with the dancers they had this year. “It’s a great cast. They’re really committed to what they do,” she said.

“Dance Sites” will be performed at 6:30 and 8 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and at 2 p.m. on Sunday in the University Theater. Cost for the 6:30 p.m. show is $8 general admission, and $5 for children 11 years old or younger. All other performances are $12 general admission; $10 for students, seniors and Sacramento State employees; and $8 for children.

Kyrie Eberhart can be reached at [email protected]