For the past fourteen years, the Mendocino College Dance Department has acknowledged National Dance Week with its own celebration of dance, the Spring Dance Festival, and this year is no exception! Ballet, contemporary, jazz, Afro-Cuban, Middle Eastern, hip hop, tap dance and aerial silk dance are just a handful of dance forms that will delight those who attend this event.
The Spring Dance Festival will be held on Friday and Saturday, May 1 & 2 at 7:30 PM and Sunday, May 3 at 2:00 PM in the Mendocino College Center Theatre in Ukiah. “This event is one of Mendocino College’s most popular yearly events. People love the diversity of dance that is presented and the $5 tickets!” says Leslie Saxon West, Director of Dance and festival director and producer. According to Saxon West, “This is an annual family event and our goal is to make it affordable and enjoyable for all.”
This year, a special tribute to Mendocino College dancer Kayla Grace Chesser, who tragically died on November 1st of last year, will take place. The Chesser family has set up a scholarship award in their daughter’s name, and the two recipients, Melany Katz and Ayla Decaire will be honored with those awards at each performance. Additionally, Troupe Satya, a Middle Eastern dance group that Kayla also danced with, will perform Candlelight in memory of Kayla and Beads on the Wind, choreographed by dancers Julie Castillo and Jessica May. Saxon West continues, “We want to honor Kayla and the radiant beauty she brought to our dance program and to the Center Theatre stage. Although there will be tears, dance was something that Kayla was passionate about and brought her much joy. We want to pass that joy and love of dance on to those who are dancing and those who come to see our performances.”
There is something for everyone in this year’s performance. Contemporary, jazz, ballet, and hip hop dance pieces have been choreographed by student choreographers as well as Mendocino College dance instructors Eryn Schon-Brunner, Katie Whitmarsh, Kirsten Turner, and Nzinga Woods. The dance themes vary and as well as the music. Dance themes range from love, anger, and friendship, to ragtime fun and “the oldie days!” According to Saxon West, there is even a dance called Pecking Order, choreographed by student choreographer Tara Ford, which was inspired by an over population of roosters and what comes with that is their constant battle for dominance and their fight for the ladies! Additionally, two student choreographers and dancers, Cody Dooley and Melissa Chapman, will perform on long pieces of silk suspended from above. The music is equally as varied, from hip hop and Afro-Cuban drumming to live piano accompaniment by music student Elisa Borg to a dance called Get Happy which is a light-hearted ragtime jazz spoof about four ladies who get displaced from their bench by a true gentleman, who they then proceed to tease until he gives in, smiles, and joins in the fun! Other composers whose music accompanies dances are Vivaldi, cellist Jami Sieber, and Glenn Miller.
Guest performers in this year’s event include members of the Mendocino Ballet under the direction of Trudy McCreanor, who will be performing a contemporary lyrical jazz piece on pointe entitled the Voice Within, and Kaleidoscope II which was inspired by the beautiful colors and pattern changes seen through the kaleidoscope. Former Mendocino College dance student Sandi Lang, who recently completed her BA degree at Sacramento State University in Theatre Arts, has choreographed a playful tap dance which she will also perform in.
Tickets, which are $5 for everyone, can be purchased in advance at the Mendocino Book Company on School St. in Ukiah, the Mendocino College Bookstore, or by calling 707.468.3079. Tickets may also be purchased at the door if available.
Mendocino College is located at 1000 Hensley Creek Road in Ukiah, California.