Santa Maria Sun / Art
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 14, Issue 3
Poets of poseThe Allan Hancock College Dance Department features faculty and student choreography in the spring recital 'Dance Spectrum'
BY JOE PAYNE
Dance is the poetry of movement; no words necessary, no instrument required. Expressing deep, abstract ideas and emotions only using your body may seem like a scary prospect for someone with two left feet, but for a trained dancer, it’s a chance to exist fully in the moment as art embodied.
Allan Hancock College has long been known for its stellar dance department, which trained as many as 1,600 dance students last year alone. The program puts on two annual recitals showcasing its most seasoned and able talent. The spring recital, titled Dance Spectrum, is running April 1 through 7 and will feature choreography and dance by faculty and students alike.
“We like diversity,” said Larissa Nazarenko, dance instructor and Fine Arts Department chair at Allan Hancock College. “When the director of the concert chooses choreographic styles, we go for diversity.”
Nazarenko has been teaching dance at Hancock since 2006, having taught at several schools in California. Originally from Russia, a country with a rich dance tradition and large variance of styles, Nazarenko cites her exposure to different styles as something that boosted her education.
“Of course in Russia, we have so many nationalities and ethnicities within the country, so we learned different dances,” she said. “I truly believe that dancers that have experience in as many styles as possible will truly create better dancers—and better citizens as well.”
Dance Spectrum certainly reflects the name; the program features performances of ballet, tap, jazz, modern, contemporary, hip-hop, and folklorico. Staff or students choreographed each piece.
Besides Nazarenko, the faculty choreographers include Kellie Claverie, Horacio Heredia, Valerie Kline, Zhelia Pouraghabagher, and Ben Reyes. The student contributors include Aaron Castellanos, Stephanie Irwin, Brent Lewis, Courtney Winder, and Jamel Winder. Some of the students have a wealth of experience with choreography, such as Lewis, who’s studied with renowned modern dance choreographers. Some of the students are younger first- and second-year college students with experience from high school.
“Aaron Castellanos, he has been dancing with us for a couple years, he is doing folklorico,” Nazarenko said. “He has been dancing folklorico for many years; he did it in high school. We get a lot of students from local high schools, especially students who dance folklorico.”
Even within one style, such as folklorico, there’s massive deviation. Most regions of Mexico have their own traditional folkdance. In Nazarenko’s case, she choreographed a modern ballet piece that draws inspiration from Russian styles.
“I am an artist, and this is my life, so I choreograph a lot of myself into it,” she said. “My study was combining traditional Russian dance and modern dance, and since it’s my personality, I always incorporate it.”
The student and faculty choreographers alike were met with a challenge for this year’s Dimensions in Dance. The Marian Theatre, the traditional venue for Dimensions in Dance and Dance Spectrum, is undergoing long-needed renovations to better serve PCPA. Due to the renovations, Dance Spectrum will be performed in the Severson Theatre right next door.
Inaugurated in 1992, the Severson Theatre is a much smaller performing space than the Marian, only seating up to 188 bodies. Due to the smaller performance space, seating has been arranged in a surrounding manner, with bleacher-type seating on each wall of the theater. This posed quite a task for the choreographers, who were used to arranging performances for a forward-facing stage.
“You have to change the piece, whatever idea you had in your head,” Nazarenko said, “and realizing that you have an audience from everywhere, you have to have dancers situated there.”
The number of performances has also changed for this year’s program due to the reduced size of the venue. Allan Hancock College dance concerts are notoriously well attended due to the efforts of the dance students, who pass out discounted event coupons on and off campus. Since the venue is smaller, Dimensions in Dance will include two extra performance dates to include as many people as possible.
“This time we are opening Monday night,” Nazarenko said. “We are trying to accommodate our audiences because we usually sell all our shows.”
Part of why the students do such a diligent job at hustling tickets is that the sales benefit the dance program. Due to the current budget climate, Hancock has had to dial back many of its classes, including dance.
“We were one of the biggest programs at Hancock before this crisis happened,” Nazarenko said. “But we cut back a lot because of not just the money, but also because of the facilities.”
Hancock enjoyed as many as 1,600 dance students last year, Nazarenko explained, but now is down to 1,000. Though the department has had to cut back on the number, the classes are still full due to the popularity of the dance program. Hopefully, with the completion of the new renovations, there will be more room for more students.
“Just from my experience,” Nazarenko said, “I have seen other community college dance programs, and I can say for sure that this program at Allan Hancock College is one of the strongest in the state.”
Arts Editor Joe Payne dances only if no one is watching. Contact him at email@example.com.