Manhattanville Reid Castle In the Spring

Manhattanville College Students Perform at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival


Manhattanville Dance Students at Jacob's PillowManhattanville dancers with Marta Renzi at Jacob’s Pillow.(Top row form left) Elyse Desmond, Laurel Higa, Candice Segarra, Marta Renzi, and Skylar Wilson, (bottom row from left)Lori Belovin, Stephanie Kunkel, Sara Arment, and Genna Durante.A group of Manhattanville College students recently performed on the Inside/Out Stage at the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, an annual summer-long festival featuring dancers from all over the world, on July 24.

“Dancing on the Inside/Out Stage at Jacob's Pillow was breathtaking,” said Laurel Higa, who graduated from Manhattanville this past May. “As a recent graduate looking to further my career as a dancer, performing at this historical site was a huge step forward into the professional world of dance and art.”

Sara Arment ’15 and Lori Belovin ’16 expressed that the experience at Jacob’s Pillow was a life-changing opportunity for them.

“Performing here is something that every dancer dreams of.  I remember thinking in my head during the last minute of the performance, ‘Wow, you are actually here. You made it.’ It was such a surreal moment,” explained Arment.

“It was an incredible feeling, knowing there were different arrays of people there, some who are regulars and some who have never seen or experienced dance before. To know that we have affected and inspired people's lives for the first time is an overwhelming feeling,” said Belovin. The performance at Jacob’s Pillow was attended by more than 600 people.

The students performed “The Book of Breath,” a piece choreographed by Bessie Award winner Marta Renzi for last year’s Fall Dance Concert. Since then the students have performed the piece in Newport, Rhode Island at the Great Friends Dance Festival in addition to Jacob’s Pillow. “It came together smoothly,” said Renzi of the Jacob’s Pillow performance.

The students faced different challenges at Jacob’s Pillow than they did in past performances, including dancing outside and adjusting to a bigger stage. “Recreating ‘The Book of Breath’ for the outdoors proved to be our biggest challenge,” admitted Higa. “Being outside, the stage itself was much bigger in comparison to the Little Theatre on campus.  Movements that usually didn't travel suddenly did, and moments when we would run from one side of the stage to the other turned into sprinting,” said Arment.

“Dancing ‘Book of Breath’ at Manhattanville was completely different from dancing at the Pillow,” said Stephanie Kunkel ’16. “The piece has undergone a transformation of movement quality, performance, and unity as an ensemble. I feel like a new dancer, it was like a whole new piece.”

Training with professional dancers like Renzi was also a big opportunity for the Manhattanville students, who were also coached by young professionals Ching-I Chang and Esme Boyce. “Marta Renzi is an incredible woman,” expressed Belovin. “Not only does her choreography complement our talents and makes people think, but she sees our great potential and dedication.”

“Their advice and support throughout the tour was invaluable,” said Elyse Desmond ’15. “They took our performance to the next level. The tour was an amazing experience filled with new people, places, connections, and experiences. I am so grateful to have had an opportunity like this.”  

For her part, Renzi enjoyed working with college students. “My experience with these dancers and ‘Book of Breath’ reminds me that it’s possible to make something lasting and beautiful – and mostly abstract – with student performers,” she said.