Mason’s School of Dance Presents Annual Gala Concert at the Center for the Arts

School of Dance students rehearse Robert Battle’s “Awakening” for Mason’s 2023 Gala Concert. (Photo Credit: Cristian Torres/Strategic Communications/George Mason University)

School of Dance students rehearse Robert Battle’s “Awakening” for Mason’s 2023 Gala Concert.
(Photo Credit: Cristian Torres/Strategic Communications/George Mason University)

George Mason University’s School of Dance presents the 2024 Mason School of Dance Gala Concert on March 22 and 23, celebrating a rich array of diverse choreographic voices that span from the early days of modern dance to the freshest perspectives of today. As such, this year’s program showcases Mason’s School of Dance students in four varied works by well-known choreographers and dance educators Kyle Abraham (Drive), Rena Butler (This, That, and the Third), Martha Graham (Steps in the Street), and Susan Shields (Visions and Miracles). 

“We are thrilled to present this year's Mason Dance Company Gala Concert performances, featuring works by such renowned choreographers including our very own Susan Shields,” said Director of the Mason School of Dance Karen Reedy. A hallmark of our program is our strong connection to the professional field. Our dancers grow tremendously through working closely in residency with these important dance artists. They heighten their professionalism, make connections for their careers, and truly grow from students to artists. We invite audiences to join us to witness the stunning results of our dancers’ hard work. For those who would like to take their support of the School of Dance a step further, we hope to see you at the Mason Dance Fête on March 23.” 

A.I.M by Kyle Abraham
A.I.M by Kyle Abraham performed at the Center on February 17. (Photo Credit: Courtesy A.I.M by Kyle Abraham)

Commissioned for New York City Center’s Fall for Dance Festival in 2017, Kyle Abraham’s Drive is a memory-infused piece celebrating the ecstasy of a dance club. Abraham has shared that his origins in dance began in the club world when he was a teenager growing up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This personal experience inspired the high-energy propulsive work set to club beats, which features an ensemble of eight dancers. This performance is staged by Jae Neal. In addition to Abraham’s piece being included in Mason’s School of Dance Gala, Abraham’s contemporary dance company, A.I.M by Kyle Abraham, is a 2023/2024 Mason Artist-in-Residence which included masterclasses with Mason School of Dance students and the local community prior to their performance at the Center for the Arts on February 17. 

Rena Butler’s This, That, and the Third premiered in 2019 as part of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago’s Forge Forward program. The work explores themes of otherness and code-switching. Over 23 minutes, Butler introduces each member of the six-person cast through distinctive solos and intimate duets. The result is a powerful piece in which the ensemble finds connection through shared experience, revealing the power of multiplicity and a progressive future. This performance is staged by Rena Butler and Madison Pineda. For a special preview of Butler’s piece, watch the video below. 

Premiered at New York City’s Guild Theater in 1936—as part of a larger piece entitled Chronicle—Martha Graham’s Steps in the Street was created in response to the rise of fascism in Europe. The rhythmic piece is performed by 12 women, who depict the tragedy and isolation of war through a new dance vocabulary developed by the iconic Graham. The original program notes from the full work’s premiere reads, “Chronicle does not attempt to show the actualities of war; rather, by evoking war’s images, it sets forth the fateful prelude to war, portrays the devastation of spirit which it leaves in its wake, and suggests an answer.” The piece is staged by Elizabeth Auclair. 

This piece will also be featured in George Mason University’s Center of the Arts’ Martha Graham Dance Company performance on April 13.  

Mason School of Dance Professor, Susan Shields.
Mason School of Dance Professor, Susan Shields.

A joyous and colorful celebration of music, Susan Shields’ Visions and Miracles will remind audiences that spring is right around the corner. The large ensemble piece debuted in 2012 as part of The Juilliard School’s “New Dances” project. Set to a lively score by composer Christopher Theofanidis, Shields choreography resonates with vibrancy and serves as a metaphor for Mason’s emerging young performers as they embark on their journeys. Shields is an alumna of, and currently a professor in, Mason’s School of Dance. This piece is staged by Shields and assistants Lauren Ciccolini and Nateisha Reaves. 

Prior to the March 23 performance, supporters will attend the Mason Dance Fête at 5:30 p.m. in the deLaski Performing Arts Building. This intimate benefit event is a special celebration of Mason’s School of Dance faculty and students. Guests will enjoy open studio demonstrations of works by leading choreographers, including those featured in the Gala Concert program, as well as a food-and-drink reception. All net proceeds from the Mason Dance Fête go toward Mason School of Dance student scholarship funds. The event is co-chaired by Kimberly K. Eby and Julia G. Morelli and Platinum Sponsors of the event are Dr. Peter N. Stearns and Ms. Donna L. Kidd. To learn more about the hard work and art created by Mason School of Dance, watch the video below.

Witness the impressive future of dance and purchase tickets to Mason School of Dance Gala Concert on March 22 and 23. For sponsorship inquiries and questions about Mason Dance Fête, please contact Amanda Snellings at 703-993-1593.