You could say dance professor Amy Nevius’ head was in the clouds when she was choreographing for St. Gregory’s University’s fall dance concert, Freedom and Flight. St. Gregory’s is the only university in Oklahoma that offers classes in aerial dance, and it was Nevius’ job to translate what students had learned in those classes into a graceful, gravity-defying performance piece.
“Aerial dance is basically modern dance that uses an apparatus to create dance in a vertical space,” Nevius explained. “The apparatus can be a trapeze or silks, like you might see in the circus, or in our case, we’re using an aerial sling that is sometimes called a hammock.”
Nevius’ aerial dance is titled “Between Earth and Sky,” and the student dancers who are performing the piece are working without a net or guide wires. The dance is in keeping with the style of Perpetual Motion, the Oklahoma City-based dance company that helped popularize aerial dance in the state.
“Perpetual Motion has been around for about 10 years,” said Nevius, who is a member of the Perpetual Motion company, “and they began incorporating aerial dance in about the last six or seven years. Everyone really seems to love it, and I’m so glad we could bring that to St. Gregory’s. ” “Between Earth and Sky” is one of nine dance pieces audiences will see in Freedom and Flight. Although the aerial performance is drawing a great deal of attention, St. Gregory’s Director of Dance, Dr. Jessica Van Oort, said all of the dances are unique in their own ways.
“We have tap, jazz, modern,” Van Oort said. “Several of the pieces play with ideas of individuality and conformity, freedom and restraint. Watch for groups doing one thing, while an individual or duet does something quite different.”
Van Oort, who is in her second year of teaching at St. Gregory’s, is especially excited to present “Ordo Virtutum,” a liturgical dance piece she choreographed in tribute to St. Hildegard von Bingen.
“St. Hildegard was a 12th century German abbess who wrote all of this amazing music and who was recently named a Saint and Doctor of the Catholic Church,” Van Oort explained. “We’re going to perform our dance to her music. It’s really an opportunity to interpret sacred music and to hear and see something you don’t hear and see every day.”
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Liturgical dance is considered an expression of worship and is often performed to traditional church music. Van Oort believes it can be most closely compared to ballet.
“If you went to a Lutheran or Episcopalian or Catholic Church and they were dancing, it is the kind of dance you would probably see,” Van Oort said. “It’s slow and very powerful.”
Three of the nine dance pieces in Freedom and Flight were choreographed by Van Oort. Nevius choreographed another three, and the remaining dances were choreographed by St. Gregory’s dance students Dana Bucko, Tara Beda and Tawnni Powell-Mc-Carthy.
Van Oort said the show runs about an hour and a half, has one intermission and is appropriate for all ages.
“We do try to keep our shows family friendly,” Van Oort said, “but I think the themes are interesting enough to keep people of all ages really entertained. We were ambitious with our dances, and hopefully, everyone will enjoy them.”
Freedom and Flight will be presented Friday, Nov. 30, and Saturday, Dec. 1, at 8 p.m. at Sarkeys Performing Arts Center on the St. Gregory’s University campus. Tickets are $10 for adults, $8 for students and $5 for children and can be purchased online at www. stgregorys.edu/finearts or over the phone by calling (405) 878-5178.
The box office opens one hour prior to each performance.