Jane Stueckemann, Managing Editor
January 24, 2018
Dance Ensemble President Rosie Pipak said that Grant Kristo’s solo dance to the song “Supermarket Flowers” by Ed Sheeran, titled “A Tribute” in the show, made everyone cry at rehearsal.
“I’m not an emotional person, but I was almost crying. I can’t even explain it,” Pipak said.
Kristo, who is a psychology and theater arts major, said that the dance is dedicated to his mother, who died when he was 11 years old. “Everybody has a mom, so this is something that will hit home. It’s sort of a reminder of priorities. I put emotion into it,” Kristo said. His dance is a new style, which he described as urban. “I’m curious how people in Johnstown will react. It’s a gamble, because this is a different style,” Kristo said. He said that ensemble members Thomas Messer and Micaila Brown helped him choreograph the dance and tweak a few moves.
According to the organization’s adviser, education professor Natalie Conrad Barnyak, the members are to dance numbers including jazz, hip-hop and point styles. Also, she said they are to perform tap, baton and lyrical dances. “The art of dance is very enjoyable. It’s a time to relax and see the members’ hard work and talent. There are a variety of dances offered, so there’s something for everyone,” Barnyak said.
Barnyak has been a part of this organization since it started when she was a Pitt-Johnstown undergrad student in the early ‘90s. “It’s nice to be a part of something that started when I was here. I’m so proud of all the work (the dancers) have done,” Barnyak said. While Barnyak no longer dances, she helps the 60 ensemble members with anything they need when they start practicing their routines at the beginning of each fall semester. “They have meetings and auditions, and then choreographers get to present their pieces. It’s not a competitive organization. Some have been dancing all their lives, some of them are new. We try to find a place for people who have danced at different levels,” Barnyak said.
Pipak, who has been dancing since she was 3 or 4 years old, said that she is excited to see how the show comes together with the lights, music and costumes. “We’ve worked our tails off. I want everyone to have fun. I hope every choreographer’s dance comes together in the way that they hope.” Pipak said the ensemble has a few new choreographers, since the requirement to choreograph a dance is that a dancer has to be in the ensemble for at least a year prior.
When it comes to the audience, Pipak said that Delta Chi Fraternity members faithfully support ensemble members. Delta Chi President Justin Gunsallus said the fraternity members initially started attending ensemble events as a group to support Greek Life members involved in Dance Ensemble. “…it then became a tradition for us to attend every show based on the friendships we have made over the years. We love to see the hard work and dedication that goes into making the Dance Ensemble show the best it can possibly be,” Gunsallus said.
Yet, it’s not just students who seem to support the show. Both Barnyak and Pipak said that Pitt-Johnstown President Jem Spectar is the Dance Ensemble’s biggest supporter. “He always comes to our shows. We really appreciate his support,” Pipak said. Spectar did not respond for comment.
Pasquerilla Performing Arts Center Director Michael Bodolosky estimated that several hundred people attend the show each evening. “It’s a fun and energetic show. It creates a lot of campus engagement,” Bodolosky said.
Dance Ensemble members are to perform the organization’s 26th annual show, “Kill the Lights,” at 7:30 p.m. Feb 2 and 3 at the Pasquerilla Performing Arts Center
Tickets for the show are to be sold in the Student Union Jan. 29 through Feb. 2 for $1 and at the door the nights of the shows for $5.