Saturday, May 3, 2008

Merrimack Hall Choreographers Win at Panoply

Merrimack Hall is so proud of two choreographers, Leigh Caruso and Cynthia Quintela, for the excellent work they presented at Panoply's Choreography Competition April 25 and 26.

Panoply's prestigious Choreography Competition recognizes the work of choreographers with cash awards and attracts choreographers from across the southeast. This year's competition, which was held in the Von Braun Center's concert hall, brought 56 different pieces that were judged by a panel of esteemed dance professionals. The dance pieces were entered into 5 categories - ballet, modern, jazz, tap and hip-hop. An elimination round was held first and pieces were selected as "Honorable Mention"and performed on stage in Big Spring Park on Friday night of the festival, with other pieces selected as finalists to compete in the concert hall on Saturday night. This year, 8 pieces were selected as Honorable Mentions and 15 pieces were selected for the final round of competition.

Leigh, Merrimack Hall's Director of Dance Education, set a work entitled "Free My Soul" on a group of 8 dancers, including Leigh. The dancers came to Merrimack Hall from two different dance organizations - Alabama Youth Ballet and Huntsville Community Ballet - and worked at Merrimack Hall for several weeks in preparation for their participation in Panoply's Choreography Competition. "Free My Soul" was entered in the ballet category, which had the largest number of entries of all the categories, so the competition was tight! For Leigh, who graduated from Vanderbilt University in May 2007, this was the first time her work has been seen in her hometown since she was in high school. She was thrilled, and I was extremely proud, when her piece was selected to perform as an Honorable Mention!

Cynthia is on the staff of Alabama Youth Ballet and teaches visual art at Huntsville High School, where she also directs the school's dance team. Cynthia's piece, "Because," was originally created for Merrimack Hall's "Evening of Dance" held in January. Dancers from Alabama Youth Ballet were featured in this jazz piece, which was selected for the final round of competition and went on to win the jazz category. Cynthia received a $500.00 cash award, along with the honor of being chosed as the finest jazz piece entered in the competition. Cynthia has a long history of winning awards in the Panoply Choreography Competition, having won the "Best of Show" award numerous times in the past.

These choreographers and their work represent exactly what Merrimack Hall has set as our mission - to provide performance opportunities for local performers along with the educational opportunities we are providing. I am so proud that Merrimack Hall has been a part of fostering the development of these two new works and has been able to provide assistance to two of Huntsville's finest choreographers. We are so thrilled for Leigh and Cynthia and for the well-deserved recognition that their work and their dancers received!

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