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NYC Dance Festival To Take Center Stage At SHSU

Sept. 20, 2011
SHSU Media Contact: Sara Thompson

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Photo Box D, a dance choreographed by SHSU dance professors Andy and Dionne Noble for their dance company NobleMotion, will be among the dances presented by 12 companies from across the country as part of the inaugural Dance Gallery festival Oct. 7-8 in the Performing Arts Center. On the home page: A scene from the NobleMotion Dance "Splitting Night," an evening-length work. —Photos by Lynn Lane


Known throughout the nation for her ferocious, energetic style of modern dancing, Astrid Von Ussar is a familiar face in the New York City dance scene. Her resume boasts sold-out shows and routinely training her choreography to hundreds of the nation’s best dancers.

Which explains why Sam Houston State University graduate student Amy Wright found herself battling “waves of nerves” last year as she waited outside her regular dance studio in the in the university’s James and Nancy Gaertner Performing Arts Center.

On that particular day, Von Ussar was instructing her class.

For the next hour and 20 minutes Wright and her classmates danced “harder than ever before” strutting their jumps and turns in front of the New York dance legend. It was “definitely not a normal class day” for the 23-year-old dance major.

Von Ussar’s visit was a part of SHSU’s inaugural Dance Gallery festival, where emerging choreographers from across the nation showcased original work at the Performing Arts Center.

This year, the NYC festival will be returning to SHSU on Oct. 7-8 with 11 dance companies from New York, Massachusetts, Florida, California and Texas. The companies will feature an array of dance styles including modern, jazz and ballet.

The collaboration between SHSU and Von Ussar began last year after a trip to Texas left her convinced that the university would be a great place to expand her festival.

“She really liked the atmosphere of the university and its closeness to Houston,” said assistant dance professor Andy Noble. “But it was our new state-of-the-art dance building that really won her over.”

The result brought hundreds of dancers to Huntsville last year for the festival’s opening night—the first concert performed on the facility’s new stage.

Von Ussar began the festival in New York City in 2006 as a way for smaller dance companies to showcase their talent without the challenge of finding a suitable and affordable performance venue in New York City.

Photo Box D. —Photo by Julian Grandberry

According to Noble, the moment they arrive the festival’s dancers get treated to Southern hospitality.

“A lot of the 2010 choreographers that will be coming back to SHSU credit their return to the warm welcome they received last year,” said Noble. “They really liked the small-town charm of the university and all the kindness it showed them.”

The Dance Gallery not only benefits performers. Before the festival begins, dance students are able to take classes and train with the professional dance companies.

Last year, SHSU’s dance students were able to take classes from 10 dance companies. Each featured various styles of dance from different areas of the world, with instructors from as far away as Slovenia.

“Not only does this enable our students to be exposed to as much dance as possible, it also lets them network with other dancers and companies world wide,” Noble said.

According to Wright, the experience was one she will never forget.

“The caliber of the dancing these performers are doing really brings something that is new and brilliant to the SHSU community,” she said.

The festival will also feature SHSU’s own dancers in a performance by NobleMotion, a dance company started by Noble and his wife Dionne, who is a lecturer in SHSU's dance program. The ensemble, which features several Sam Houston State University dance students, has performed in theatres all over Texas and New York City.

Their work at last year’s festival earned them top reviews in the Houston Press, where critics deemed it the “highest performance of the night.”

“This year, we have such an incredible variety of dancers that I know audiences will treasure and appreciate what they’re going to see,” said Noble, “whether they’re a part of the dance culture or not.”

After its stop at Sam Houston State University, the Dance Gallery festival will continue its run in New York City from Oct. 13-15.

Performances for this year's Dance Gallery will begin at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased at 936.294.2339.



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