The Dance Ensemble performances from this past weekend can be summed up in three words: inspiring, mesmerizing and refreshing.


Now, that’s not to say it didn’t have its lulls in momentum or that it was all unexpected. However, as a newcomer myself to Dance Ensemble, I can say I have not seen that caliber of dance in a very long time.  


The best theatrics and most entertaining student-choreographed dance was “Cellblock Tango,” choreographed by Chrissie Capobianco and Erica Plotner.


The sassy, dark and seductive performance told the story of six women who were thrown in prison after murdering their lovers. Talk about a shocking performance compared to some of the more predictable plots that often come to life on Valpo’s stage.


If scandalously dressed villainesses didn’t shock the audience enough, the last number of the show was there to finish the job.


“Carnival,” the final dance choreographed by Ann Kessler, Director of Dance Ensemble, was both haunting and enchanting. A twist on the classic idea of a carnival, this dance included a corrupt ringmaster, disturbing clowns and a heroine that set everything straight at the end.


As the longest piece, the plot was well-developed and showed the transfer of power from one character to the next. That considered, it definitely had some audience members squirming in their seats from both suspense and length. Although it didn’t sit quite right with me, because of the slightly scary costumes and the zombie-like choreography, I couldn’t tear my eyes away from a single moment of it.


Consider the comparison of watching a horror movie that you know you shouldn’t watch because certain gruesome scenes will replay in your mind for weeks. You want to look away, but no matter how hard you try, you just can’t.


As beautifully terrifying as “Carnival” was, there were several other performances throughout Dance Ensemble that provided show-stopping choreography, special effects and costumes.


Some highlights included “The Winner Is,” “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” and “Sir Duke.” Each stole my heart.


These exceptional pieces were choreographed by students Lauren Skiniotes, Robyn Lewandowski and Elyse Smith. Each dance was a unique experience for the audience and presented different strengths each choreographer possessed.


The first of these pieces was eye-catching from the start, with the gorgeous costumes that were simplistic yet elegant. The sheen, flowing texture of the fabric only added to the grace of the dancers. The choreography was expressive and well-thought out for the theme.


“Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” showcased experienced lighting effects, also designed by students, that spotlighted dancers in a way I have never seen. Each movement the dancers made emphasized a word or beat in the song in a powerful, strong manner.


In tribute to Duke Ellington, tap piece “Sir Duke” was a cheerful dance to the Stevie Wonder song. One could not help but smile through the duration of the performance because the energy the dancers brought to the stage was so contagious.


I can only imagine the creativity and time it takes to not only choreograph but to then rehearse each piece. Simply from attending Dance Ensemble, it is obvious that Ann Kessler and all of the students involved put their hearts and souls into every dance.

The views expressed are those of the writer and not necessarily those of The Torch. Contact Camille Granberry at

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