Dance Company’s 39th Annual Concert Celebrates Founder’s Tenure
Faculty Advisor Dawn Ketterman-Benner to Step Aside Following Concert
Asked to describe a theme for the upcoming Moravian College Dance Company’s 39th annual spring concert, Mary Anne Gillen Hoffman, the company’s artistic director, acknowledged the performance’s overarching messages is that it is the end of an era. The reference was quite accurate as Dawn Ketterman-Benner, the company’s founder and faculty advisor will soon step aside, marking the end of nearly four decades with the organization.
ABOVE: This is the promotional poster for Moravian College Dance Company’s 39th annual spring concert.
“The theme to this year’s performance is that Dawn is retiring, and there are many people planning a wonderful, heartfelt celebration,” said Hoffman.
Though any extra pomp and circumstance isn’t necessary to make the next week’s events more emotional, Ketterman-Benner noted. “I started the Dance Program in 1975 and feel like a proud parent watching her child grow and mature,” she said. “I will always love this dance company.”
Seventeen student dancers and 50 guest dancers will bring the annual concert to life on Friday, March 28, and Saturday, March 29, with performances in Foy Hall at 7:30 p.m. This dedicated group of dancers will perform pieces choreographed by students, teachers and guests in ballet, tap, jazz, musical theater, modern and contemporary dance. There will also be a special alumni presentation. Admission is free with a Moravian ID. Otherwise, tickets are $8. (Click here to see the promotional poster.)
Ketterman-Benner notes how unique it is to have student and guest performances on stage together. “This is the only college dance company that I know of that does that,” she said. “It is really an amazing production when you think about it.”
This year’s student choreographers, who will also be performing, are Rachel Morrison ’15, Shayna O’Boyle ’17, Kathleen Sicinski ’15 and Jeni Styka ’14. Other student performers include Jessie Bortnick ’16, Ariel Hudak ’14, Alejandra Kaplan ’16, Nicole Linnartz ’17, Meghan Menagh ’17, Emily Mudd ’15, Lauren Mulvaney ’16, Jeanne Ritter ’17, Bianca Suares ’17, Brittany Spinosa ’16, as well as tappers Emily Baer ’14 and Laura Shearman ’14.
Gina Mento is in her first year serving as the company’s assistant director, replacing Madeline Moore ’06 who gained notoriety last fall with her dance group Catapult on America’s Got Talent.
“It is a very dedicated group,” said Hoffman, noting the company hosted auditions back in September and has been taking Ballet and Modern classes and working on choreography ever since. “They juggle a lot of responsibilities, trying to deal with school, work, and other activities, and yet they still put in a lot of hours into the dance company.”
In addition to being committed students and dancers, the company consists of many campus leaders, including sorority officers, RAs, and music and theatre performers, according to Hoffman.
This spring’s guest companies include the Ballet Guild of the Lehigh Valley, Coral Nolan’s Academy of Dance, In Motion Dance Company, L.V. Charter High School for the Arts, Repertory Dance Theatre and Tap Ties. Jill Fitzgerald, Amy Smith, Samantha Anderson ‘13 and Rebecca Moyer have served as special guest choreographers.
“Most of these guest performers have been with us for years,” Ketterman-Benner said. “We enjoy working with them and giving these area companies an opportunity to perform in front of an audience they don’t normally reach.”
Ketterman-Benner called it especially exciting to work with the In Motion Dance Company because former Moravian dancer Kathie Delquercio Kececi ’85 serves as its director. “It is a real treat for me to see one of my dancers come back with her company,” the founder said.
With less than two weeks until the company’s annual concert, Hoffman called this month’s practice time, “March Madness.” The Johnston Hall studio is being used every night by different choreographers. “It is pretty strenuous right now – maddening, really,” said Ketterman-Benner. “There’s a lot of work, and I don’t think most people quite realize how much goes into this performance.
The Moravian College Dance Company – the former Moravian College Dancers – will always have a special place in my heart.”
– Dawn Ketterman-Benner
In a moment of reflection, Ketterman-Benner said much has changed in the years since the company’s founding in 1975.
“I think the complexity of college life has changed,” she said, noting the number of other activities and responsibilities the dancers have outside of the studio. “There is so much more for these girls to get involved in here at Moravian. Back when we started, women needed more activities to be involved in – dance was added as part of the Title IX push on campus.”
As difficult as it is to walk away, Ketterman-Benner believes the dance company is in good hands, thanks in part to the Dawn Ketterman-Benner Dance Fund, established by alumni dancer Susan Gangwere McCabe ’79 and other alumni dancers in 2000. The fund supports master classes, guest choreographers, and helps to fund the assistant artistic director position.
“It is a wonderful selfless act of giving – by our dance alums and friends of dance – that will secure the future of the Moravian College Dance Company on this campus,” she said.
Ketterman-Benner explained that she is grateful for the many wonderful individuals she’s worked with over the years, both on the stage and behind the scenes.
“I have made incredible friends these past 39 years,” she said. “My production crew of Mary Anne, Blair Flintom, Bill Bauman, Paul Tardue and new assistant director Gina Mento; My former choreographers and artistic directors, as well as the guest artists, including alumni dancers, who have been with us for many years. All these people will never be forgotten.”
“The Moravian College Dance Company – the former Moravian College Dancers – will always have a special place in my heart,” Ketterman-Benner concluded. “I look forward to returning as a guest choreographer and future consultant for the company as it grows and expands into a major artistic outlet for the Moravian students.”
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