“Great dancers are not great because of their technique, they are great because of their passion.” – Martha Graham.
As the dancers begin each year with IM Dance, there is always masters work to be accomplished in the studio, but it is their love and passion for the work, and their instructor and choreographer, Mara Ifju that makes this company special. This year’s final recital embodied a full measure of that love and passion.
The tone of the show was set with the opening number, TAPPIN’ ON THE CHOO, CHOO, which featured IMs premiere tap class of Lisa Brasch, Victoria DiLeo, La’Shawnda Holman and Elizabeth Reid. This brilliant number used some of our favorite tap steps such as step-heel, complex ball change and shuffles and through intricate combinations, took the audience on a journey clickity-clacking down the rails.
The theme of railroads and summer continued as Paris Brown, Laila Douglas, Amelia Gunnells, Sofia Gunnels, Samrit Kaur, Jaynee Maldonado, Makia Upshur and Jeanette and William Pike tapped their way down the tracks as hard-working railway engineers. This young group showed great talent and athleticism, shining a bright light on the future of IM dance.
Frances Williams, Elizabeth Reid and Rossy Vera heated things up with a Latin inspired number to the music of Alberto Dominguez. This group was on point, combining nice crossovers with rhythmic shuffles and ball-changes to create a delightful flamencos feel.
Sometimes, if the stars align, two dancers can come together to form a partnership that takes dance to the next level. Laila Holman and Stella Lusk are just such a team. These talented dancers are a joy to watch, in both tap and ballet. Their mastery of the choreography is, given their young ages, inspiring, but the way they communicate with each other is what makes them so special and sets them apart. Their ballet work, choreographed to the music of Bach, left the audience spell-bound.
Ballet, at its heart, is about bringing a classical sensibility of dance and music to life on the stage. Set to the music of Mozart, the class of Lucy Lusk, Peyton Mullaly, Ava Purvis and Olivia Reid was near perfection. Turnouts, alignment, spacing and of course, pointed toes was just as Miss Mara choreographed it.
That brings us to one of our favorite dancers, and IM’s Prima Ballerina, Payton Mullaly. As a soloist and as a part of a group, her strength and concentration, combined with a beauty and elegance makes her a very special dancer to watch. Technically, she is so strong with the basics; her elevés and coupés, grand plié and simply plié, and tendus are very advanced. We expect to see Miss Mullaly get better and stronger with every season.
We do want to take a moment to praise our most lovely and talented costume mistress, Vera Miller. From classic tutus to tap pants to dresses, Miss Vera always has a unique and individual take that captures the beauty of the routine, but importantly remains ultimately functional (they do have to dance in these costumes). Miller’s design was summed up in the dance To Bee or Not. Laila Holman, Kayla Coffey, Clara Delmont, Leaira Elise Hall, Madison Holman and Maya Isabella Santos were a hive of adorable bees, and Miss Vera’s costumes matched the wonderful dance with poetic freshness.
As always, Miss Mara saves her advanced choreography for last. The supra-talented ballerinas Lisa Brasch, Elizabeth Dodd, Victoria DiLeo, La’Shawnda Holman, Payton Mullaly, Jennifer Kim and Leslie Nelson reached for the sky in a routine choreographed to the music of J.S. Salovaara. Fluid movement using every inch of the floor, combined with a middle-east inspired scarf dance left the audience breathless and wanting to see more.
This was a brilliant show. This company of dancers is so talented and beautiful, the audience is filled with awe watching them perform miracles of lightness and velocity, every phrase shaped by an interior music, and most all, a reflection of the passion and love for dance that Miss Mara Ifju embodies.