Staff photo - Rod Aydelotte Keele Halbert's "Dollhouse" combines balletic smoothness with sharper mannequin motions in MCC's "Fall [and recover] Dance Concert."
By CARL HOOVER email@example.com McLennan Community College’s “Fall [and recover] Dance Concert” lasts only about an hour, but in that time covers a wide range of enjoyable dance, music and clever, inventive staging. The first dance concert under new MCC dance instructor/choreographer Melissa Edwards puts some 40 students onstage in the course of the evening. They dance in groups small and large, with music recorded and live, and in styles spanning and mixing contemporary, hip-hop, ballet, jazz and tap, all unified by an earnest energy and love for the art. The large-group, high-energy pieces “Stompa,” choreographed by Edwards, and “Misdemeanor,” choregraphed by Cameron Gradel, bookend the concert (after a preshow “Chillin’ in the Lobby”) and in between is a satisfying variety of dance and movement, much of which was imagined and designed by students. Keele Herbert’s “Dollhouse” combines balletic grace with angular movements suggesting mechanical dolls. Lauren Hill’s and Olivia Wise’s “Dark Matter” had dancer Jay Alvarez activating five others as he dances around them, and with them, on a dark stage, dropping a small light at their feet to bring them into movement. Fingertip lights turnmotion into bits and lines of light in Edwards’ group piece “Back To Black,” set to music by Beyonce and Andre 3000. Sammi Lynn provided the concert’s one solo piece in her “Starving Flame” while Gradel and Abbey Fitzjarrell won one of opening night’s louder ovations for their deliciously measured tap duo set to Oscar Peterson’s jazzy piano take of Gershwin’s “Summertime,” a piece choreographed by guest artist Jeremy Arnold of Austin. > READ MORE: MCC dance concert expands approach to artform “Fall [and recover] Dance Concert” communicates an expanded sense of dance in “How Glory Goes,” a piece fusing full-body movement and American Sign Language, and performed by MCC dancers, deaf students and those in the college’s Interpretive Training program, with live accompaniment from singer Jessica Deaver and pianist Chris Arnold. Joshua Barber’s well-made short film “Process/Product” captures the pre-concert work of rehearsals. Caleb Stroman’s lighting design provides different looks for each of the concert’s 11 pieces, from the strong red, blue and green side lighting that amps the energy of Gradel’s “New Dorp New York” to the two spotlights used on “Summertime.” The highly accessible “Fall [and recover] Dance Concert” not only entertains, but leaves its audience with a strong sense that dance and movement are open for everyone.“Fall [and recover] Dance Concert” continues with performances at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Nov. 13-14, at MCC’s Ball Performing Arts Center. Tickets cost $10; call the box office at 299-8200.
I talked to Melissa about her show and asked if we could turn it into a dyeing show. That was a chapter of my book that seemed to be severely lacking in show photos this summer. We talked about buying pre-made pieces and then using all of the different dye techniques that I teach throughout the pieces. Melissa said she was OK with that, so I"m really looking forward to working on this show.
fabric and other purchases
Longtime MCC choreographer/director Jerry MacLauchlin's recent retirement meant hiring a new dance teacher, Melissa Edwards. As with any new hire, that meant change. For MCC's first ever Fall (and Recover) Dance Concert, student choreographer Keele Halbert, wanted to dress her dancers in tutus while they danced to Melanie Martinez's Dollhouse. In the 18 years I'd worked with Jerry, I'd never made a tutu; fortunately I knew just who to call, MCC alum, Shanna Tucker, cutter/draper at Houston Ballet and expert tutu maker. She immediately emailed me her 6 page instructional pamphlet on the tutu-making process.
I needed 5 Giselle style tutus which called for 90 yards of tulle, that's 18 yards per tutu. Each tutu requires 6 layers of tulle. For our purposes, Keele wanted an ombre effect so the bottom two layers were to be red, the middle two layers were to be hot pink, and the outermost two layers were to be light pink. Shanna had strongly advised to invest in a ruffler foot. I happened to find them on sale at a deep 70% off discount at Joanne's so I bought 3 for $36.00 total. We also needed 5 rolls of 1 1/2" wide light pink satin ribbon to finish off the waistbands and keep them tied around the girls' waists.
With supplies purchased and measurements taken, the first step was to create the basque or waistband that all six layers would be sewn to. Each one was draped, cut, and serged and then marked in white pencil with six sewing guides at 1/2" intervals down the hip. The red tulle would make up the shortest layers so each strip was cut beginning at 28" on the weft. Four strips were cut at each size. The next layer was also red but cut at 29"; four strips were cut at this size. We switched out the red for the hot pink and cut four more strips at 30" and four more at 31". Last was the light pink: four strips of 32" and the last four at 33". Each bundle of four was pinned together and labeled with the measurement.
Bundles were given to the students to sew together on the short side. Three seams later and four strips were turned into one long strip. Seams were pressed open. Each strip was then given to students to ruffle on the largest setting. Once all six strips were ruffled it was time to start sewing them onto the basque.
The shortest (28") red strip was pinned and sewn on the bottom-most sewing guide. The next shortest (29") red strip was sewn directly above, followed by the 30" hot pink strip, then the 31" hot pink strip, then the 32" light pink strip, and finally the 33" light pink strip. The tulle was irritating to work with as it got caught on everything and picked up all the loose thread, lint, and other debris that was floating around the shop. The strips then had to be connected to each other to form a skirt. The ends were sewn together from the hem up to 9" from the waist, which left enough room for the girls to get them on. Fittings were done so that closure placement could be marked. Snaps and hooks and eyes were added to close the basque. Finally the satin ribbon was machine stitched to the top edge of the basque directly on top of the last layer of tulle.
Once the first one was completed and fitted I realized that the others would have to be much, much shorter. Keele was in the piece and was the tallest girl at 5'8". The other four girls were 5'4" and 5'0. So the next two sets of tulle skirts were cut 4 inches shorter and the last two sets were cut 8 inches shorter. It wasn't a difficult process, but it was easy to get confused as to who was working on what. We made labels with the measurements on them for each piece that was cut and kept them pinned into each piece throughout the whole process so we could keep them straight. Only once did the crew confuse them and sew a longer one onto a shorter girl's basque. Not bad for a shop that had 30 sets of skirts flying around at any one time. The crew were so proud of themselves they took a funny picture in them. I was really pleased with how they turned out and am ready for the challenge of the pancake tutu. Maybe not till next year, though.
For the lyrical number, Melissa wanted several dresses that were long and flowey for the girls and big baggy pants with long shirts for the guys. We ordered the dresses in white and then dyed them in an ombre pattern ourselves.