Drama and Dance Hofstra College of Liberal Arts and Sciences School of Humanities, Fine and Performing Arts

Preserving a Dance Classic for a New Generation

Julian Donahue, Dennette Bennett and Kaitlyn Gorsky. Photo by Johan Elbers

Eleo Pomare’s masterpiece, Las Desenamoradas, will be performed as part of the Spring Dance Concert presented by Hofstra University’s Dance Program, Thursday through Sunday, April 19-22. The dance has been reconstructed by Professors Dyane Harvey-Salaam (winner of a 2017 Bessie Award) and Robin Becker, longtime members of the Eleo Pomare Dance Company, who performed the piece themselves over the course of more than a decade.

Hofstra’s Department of Drama and Dance is supporting the preservation of Las Desenamoradas by having it documented in Labanotation in coordination with the Dance Notation Bureau, directed by Lynne Weber. Reconstructing this work for a new generation of dancers, while preserving its movements for future young artists, is a way for Harvey-Salaam and Becker to honor the artist who had a profound influence in their successful careers.

“Reconstructing Las Desenamoradas has been a great privilege for me,” says Becker.  “I met Eleo when I was 19. He was my mentor as a developing dance artist for over 10 formative years, and later, as a developing choreographer. His wisdom and generosity as a teacher, as well as his brilliance as an artist, was a great gift and foundation for the rest of my life.”

First staged in 1967, Las Desenamoradas was inspired by Federico García Lorca’s tragic play The House of Bernarda Alba, about a tyrannical mother’s domination over her five daughters. Hofstra’s Drama Program is presenting the play through April 15.

Eleo Pomare

Pomare, the first black man to grace the cover of Dance Magazine, created controversial works based on literary and socio-political issues. “Much of Eleo’s artistic career was dedicated to illuminate and comment about man’s inhumanity to man,” says Harvey-Salaam.

He produced dances for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, The National Ballet of Holland, Balletinstituttet (Oslo, Norway), the Cleo Parker-Robinson Dance Company, the Australian Contemporary Dance Company, and the Ballet Palacio das Artes (Belo, Horizonte, Brazil).

Other Dances Featured in the Spring Concert

On The Way, by Hofstra faculty member Robbie Cook, is a solo choreographed to the iconic second piano prelude by George Gershwin.

Sanguis Apparatus, also created by Robbie Cook, is a piece for eight dancers set to the electropop music of James Blake.

Figure Dances Using dance steps and dance notations circa 1711, Baroque movement specialist and Adjunct Professor Caroline Copeland created this new work for 10 dancers, set to Mark Mellits’ contemporary composition, “9 Miniatures.”

Monkey Mind Anita Feldman has created a tap piece utilizing various spaces and levels inside and outside the proscenium of the stage. This dance is inspired by the fragmented nature of the music Lick by Julia Wolfe, and our fragmented, difficult-to-control and unpredictable “monkey minds.”

Composite, choreographed by Adjunct Professor Heather Waldon, this is a collection of dance phrases structured into a moving collage.

As the founder and the first artistic director of Dancemobile in 1967, Pomare brought free professional dance concerts to the streets of New York City. He was the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and awards from the National Endowment of the Arts. For his outstanding contributions to modern dance, January 7, 1987 was declared Eleo Pomare Day by the Manhattan Borough President.

“To teach Las Desenamoradas, to young Hofstra dancers has been an extraordinary honor,” explains Becker. “Dyane Harvey-Salaam and I worked together for over a decade in Eleo’s company, and throughout this process at Hofstra, we have had a wonderful time of remembrance and reaffirmation of those essential qualities and abilities that Eleo sought to bring out in us.  It has been thrilling to see the growth and development of the dancers in Las Desenamoradas, and to watch their excitement, commitment, and confidence grow as they discover new territories within themselves to share and express.”

Harvey-Salaam is equally nostalgic and enthusiastic for the students she is working with. “I first met Eleo Pomare when I was fresh out of high school, and a novice to modern dance, certainly to thinking about what and how I was dancing. His choreographic approach was alien but kinetic, as he encouraged, no INSISTED that those who danced with and for him pushed their bodies and minds to the limits of ability and consciousness. In referencing  his brilliance, process, and sensitivity, I am  filled with memories of a time when a true Master molded my body, mind and soul. This reconstruction project allows the next generation of young dancers to share similar experiences. They are blessed indeed!”

Las Desenamoradas is just one of several pieces being performed at Hofstra’s Spring Dance Concert. Location is the Toni and Martin Sosnoff Theater at the John Cranford Adams Playhouse. Show times are 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday; 2 and 8 p.m. on Saturday; and 2 p.m. on Sunday.

Members of the Hofstra community receive two free tickets upon presentation of a current HofstraCard. Tickets are $10; $8 for senior citizens (over 65) or matriculated, non-Hofstra students with I.D. For tickets call the Hofstra Box Office at 516-463-6644 Monday-Friday, 11 a.m.-3:45 p.m. or purchase online at Hofstratickets.com. If available, tickets will also be sold at the door starting 90 minutes prior to show time.

(Please note that free Hofstra community tickets cannot be purchased online – they can be picked up at the Box Office.)

 

About the author

Ginny Greenberg

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