Sonoma State University celebrates the vitality and longevity of its dance program with a retrospective of works by Nancy Lyons who commemorates 40 years of choreographing, dancing teaching and directing in Sonoma County. Opening night takes place at 7:30 p.m., Fri., April 30 in Evert B. Person Theatre, with performances running through Sat., May 8.
Taking the stage to perform Lyons' various works will be the SSU Dance Ensemble, as well as different guest dancers each night who have worked with her over the years. Through selected numbers, this imaginative dance theatre embraces humor, musicality and an investigation of humanity.
Opening night features guest dancers from Santa Rosa High School ArtsQuests. Alumni of the SSU dance department perform on Sat., May 1, when all alums of the program are invited to a special reception before the performance, as well as Tues., May 4, Wed., May 5 and Thurs., May 6. The final performance on Sat., May 8 features dancers from El Molino High School.
"Keeping the Fire of Dance Alive!" consists of five earlier works choreographed by Lyons. The first number "White Pause," a classically rooted dance with Baroque music by French composer Rameau Lure, is a steamy tango featuring a solo dancer and a coat. Her second piece, "Emergency Measures," is a dance theatre perspective on the absurdities and anxieties of air travel post 9/11.
Also included is "Body Closet," an investigation into what's in our closets and "Peculiar Species Evolving," a dance number inspired by a trip to the Galapagos Islands, getting up close and personal with sea turtles, lizards, frigate birds and blue-footed boobies, which features music by Philip Glass.
Finally, the retrospective will include a new piece intended to celebrate the current students, recent dance alumni, and high school students in Sonoma County performing under Lyons' direction. This final dance, titled "Roots and Offshoots," is an international project in the sustainability of dance, which features live music composed by Jesse Olsen with Tony d'Anna and cellist Judiyaba. "Roots and Offshoots" includes a performance by Lyons and a "lecture" on the history of dance - from Lucy (Australopithecus afarensis) to YouTube in two minutes.
Lyons has been teaching at Sonoma State University since 1971, during which she has taught innumerable students and created dances for them. Having presented her solo choreography to audiences in Europe and the Far East, as well as teaching as a guest artist in many other universities, private studios and communities, her list of accomplishments continues to grow.
In collaboration with Rebecca Fuller, Lyons has published "Openings & Inner Workings," "The Moving Box" and "The Moving Book." She founded the Sonoma Dance Exchange, which toured to more than 300 elementary schools throughout the county and state, and "Summer Arts for Youth," a program for high school drama and dance students.
This production is a celebration of not only the many dancers working to keep the fire of dance alive, but of Lyons' numerous efforts to continue the excitement and art of dance in Sonoma County and at SSU's School of Performing Arts.
General admission is $15, $12 faculty, alumni, seniors, $8 students, SSU students are free with a valid student I.D. Group and family rates are available for these performances. For tickets or more information visit www.sonoma.edu/tix or call (707) 664-2353.
Above, Nancy Lyons in performances of her own design created over the years and, at left, a portrait from today.