Assist. Arts & Culture Editor
On Saturday, February 22, a benefit nearly six months in the making took place. The “Be the Change” benefit performance was a collaboration between Alpha Sigma Alpha, Millersville University’s Civic and Community Engagement, Encore Dance Center, and Excentia’s S. June Smith Center, and raised money for Excentia, a center devoted to helping children with disabilities to receive the education and peer interaction which they need.
The dance benefit performance opened with a dance titled “Home” by Encore Performance Company which was choreographed by Greta Smith. The videography was courtesy of Greg Barlett, McKenzi David, and Allie Frownfelter. The dance featured Marlaina Coonan, Kayla DelValle, Justine Eby, Kiersten Hertzog, Allison High, Audrey Kepple, Julia Kepple, Taylor Palermo, Ellie Schulz, Mia Schulz, Lauren Umble, Anna Wardwell, Elizabeth Wardwell, and Emily Young.
The second dance, “Reflections,” was choreographed by Stacy Miller, and was also performed by Encore Performance Company. “Reflections” featured Elise Conrad, Brooke Fasnacht, Taite Heller, and Serena Smith.
Hooley School of Irish Dance performed the next dance, “Siamsa,” which was choreographed by Crystal Glick, TCRG. Ella Cassidy, Arianna Flynn, Bella Flynn, David Irwin, Faith Irwin, Allyson McDaniel, and Melina O’Neal all showcased their talent during this segment of the performance.
Millersville University was next to showcase its talented dancers. Footprints took the stage next with the dance “Love You Forever.” The Millersville students who performed this dance are Ade Adebakin, Rebecca Auguste, Tatiana Baker, Anyae Broomer, Gloria Enyondo, Andrea Galtan, Audrey Jackson, Niijjah Johnson, Folake Meshe, Francis Miliano, Kris Ramos, Leona Soi, and Sunee Waller. Along with participating in the dance, Anyae Broomer also choreographed the dance to perform with her fellow students.
Encore Performance Company retook the stage after Footprints finished with back-to-back dances, “Wings” and “Sevilla,” choreographed by Tanya Coonan and Dana Shelley, respectively. “Wings” featured dancers Marlaina Coonan, Paige Gruber, Jacklyn Kirk, Ellie Schulz, Belytha Snyder, Emily Thompson, Mackenzie Toole, and Lauren Umble. “Sevilla” was performed by Alaina Bradbury, Kayla DelValle, Kiersten Hertzog, Ariana Horn, Erin McCormac, and Elizabeth Wardwell.
“It Won’t Stop/ Where Have You Been” was the next dance, showcasing Millersville University’s Essence dancers for the first time, namely Vanessa Avery, Gabriele Cerdan, Casmir Dunbar, Staci McClure-Dean, Shayana Murray, Kaliyah Phillips, Shyra Teagle, Portia West, and Kiersten Williams. Staci McCLure-Dean and Shyra Teagle also joined forces to choreograph the dance that they performed with their companions.
Several new faces of Encore Performance Company were seen taking the stage as the group performed “Car Wash.” Kristen Zimmerman choreographed the dance that dancers Grace Bowman, Allison Colarelli, Olivia Farvo, Emma Graybill, Jade Lehman, Tara Neikirk, Lauren Novakoski, Grace Offidani, and Jena Yingling all performed.
The benefit performance then took a break from dancing as Kylee Shaffer took the stage to sing the song “For Good,” a beautiful number from the Broadway show “Wicked.”
After this stunning vocal performance, Encore Performance Company retook the stage to perform “Radha,” choreographed by Greta Smith and performed by Alison Bisbing, Jenna Pypiak, Mia Schulz, and Anna Wardwell.
After the Encore Performance Company finished their dance, the benefit took a professional turn as NetCo, a professional dance company, began their performance.
Jennifer Cowan-Berlet’s NetCo Dance Company began in 2004 in the Lancaster area, and has since had more than 30 men and women dance under the NetCo name. For nearly ten years, NetCo has produced dances and performances that have been praised as being “dynamic, contagiously humorous, angst-ridden and edgy, and exquisitely beautiful.” Their performance at the “Be the Change” benefit not only served to support this assertion, it excelled beyond words. Choreographed by Jennifer Berlet herself, the performance of “Serial Rite” by dancers Lizzie Ambrose, Laura Faller, Amanda Maounis, Amy K. Mullen, and Mike Norton truly showcased the talent of these dancers.
The next performance was a humorous one as the Men of Encore, some of them being the fathers of the dancers, entertained the audience with their dance, “Mailman.”
The final two numbers before the intermission were both performed by Encore Dance Company, moving from “Shout,” choreographed by Greta Smith to “Can Can” choreographed by Cody Smith. “Shout” featured Julia Kepple, Hannah Jones, and Taylor Palermo. “Can Can” featured dancers Abby Bleacher, Aly Fulginiti, Kiersten Hertzog, Allison High, Audrey Kepple, Hope Kiehl, Savannah Kirk, Joanna Neikirk, Amanda Park, Kennedy Root, Katie White, and Emily Young.
The dancers were given some time to rest their feet and the audience got to stretch its legs during the fifteen minute intermission, during which concessions were available, as well as T-Shirt sales and a raffle.
When the benefit began its second half, it opened with a dance by Millersville’s F.U.S.I.O.N. dance team titled “For Us Stepping Is Only Natural,” the basis for the group’s name. Tatiana Baker, Anyae Broomer, Torren Cooper, and Zymia Trueblood joined forces to choreograph this dance, which the four, along with Andrea Cunningham, Jeandalee Diaz-Marin, Iryianna Fennell, James Goroyah, Francis Miliano, Zymia Trueblood, NIka Virgile, and Dwayne Wolfe, performed.
Encore Performance Company performed the next two numbers, “Poker Face” and “That’s Entertainment,” respectively. “Poker Face” was choreographed by Natalie Meola and performed by Abby Bleacher, Aly Fulginiti, Kiersten Hertzog, Allison High, Audrey Kepple, Hope Kiehl, Savannah Kirk, Joanna Neikirk, Amanda Park, Kennedy Root, Katie White, and Emily Young. Shannon Zimmerman choreographed “That’s Entertainment,” and the dancers who performed were Alaina Bradbury, Ariana Horn, Hannah Jones, Julia Kepple, Erin McCormac, Taylor Palermo, and Elizabeth Wardwell.
NetCo then took the stage for the last time, solo, to perform their dance “Nachos” which was choreographed by Jennifer Berlet and featured dancers Lizzie Ambrose, Jennifer Berlet, Melanie Burkhart, Samantha Huffman, Laura Faller, Amanda Maounis, Amy K. Mullen, Kayleen Snyder, Mike Norton, and Mikaela Soto.
Heather Bruno, Courtney Campbell, Cecilia Cooper, Rachel Dawson, Carolyn Dingee, Darcie Jones, Lindsay Olson, Briana Pogue, Samantha Scheller, Jamie Tyre, and Lauren Wood represented Millersville University’s Expressions dance team for “Man in the Mirror,” which dancer Courtney Campbell also choreographed.
Encore Performance Company performed the next two numbers, “I Feel Good,” and “Ave Maria,” which were choreographed by Alyson Shanklin and Kristen Zimmerman, respectively. “I Feel Good” featured Alison Bisbing, Jenna Pypiak, Mia Schulz, and Anna Wardwell, and “Ave Maria” was performed by Alaina Bradbury, Kayla DelValle, Justine Eby, Ariana Horn, Hannah Jones, Julia Kepple, Erin McCormac, Taylor Palermo, and Elizabeth Wardwell.
The Men of Encore retook the stage to perform their rendition of the “Evolution of Dance.”
Kylee Shaffer then reclaimed the spotlight and the microphone to steal the audience’s heart with a cover of Miley Cyrus’s power ballad, “The Climb.”
Abby Bleacher, Aly Fulginiti, Kiersten Hertzog, Allison High, Audrey Kepple, Hope Kiehl, Savannah Kirk, Joanna Neikirk, Amanda Park, Kennedy Root, Katie White, and Emily Young performed the next song, representing Encore Performance Group for their dance “My Baby Don’t Love Me,” which Alyson Shanklin choreographed.
The next number, also performed by Encore Performance Company, was called “Sui Generis,” and featured dancers Alaina Bradbury, Kayla DelValle, Ariana Horn, Julia Kepple, Erin McCormac, Taylor Palermo, and Elizabeth Wardwell. The dance was choreographed by Emily Kline.
The final number before the finale featured Millersville University’s Dance Team, and was choreographed by Jeni Hlubny. The dance, “Arabian Nights,” was performed by dancers Erin Argentine, Alison Brun, Sara Callie, Giovanna Cimino, Carly DeAngelo, Mariah Hammacher, Jessica Lang, Samantha Magaard, Morgan McAdoo, Jackie McNelis, Amanda Shaleen, Sammi Stewart, and Casey Stover.
The “Be the Change Dance Benefit Performance” finished with a finale of grandeur, with the collaborative dance called “Just Be,” which was choreographed by Alvina Kline. As all of the dancers recaptured the spotlight, they were joined by Remington Funk, Edward Hinnebusch, Sheillyn Rivera-Colon, Ashlyn Shaffer, and Max Smith, the Excentia student who was partly responsible for the night of dance and music that transpired.
Max Smith’s mother, Greta Smith, is one of the choreographers at the Encore Performance Company, and was responsible for the choreography of several numbers performed tonight. When the company’s artistic director and owner, Alvina Kline, was searching for a beneficiary for the company’s annual performance, Greta Smith recommended Excentia, the preschool Max attends, for students with developmental delays and other learning challenges.
Kline inquired at Millersville University about reserving the Winter Visual and Performing Arts Center for Encore’s performance, and when Melissa Wardwell, interim director of experiential learning and career management, heard about this, she suggested that the university become involved. From there, the university dance team, Expressions, Essence Dance, and F.U.S.I.O.N. all got involved, as well as Alpha Sigma Alpha. The rest, as they say, is history.
Luke Helker, the video and sounds coordinator for the performance, was thrilled about how the whole evening transpired.
“With so many groups coming together for such a worthy cause, I was hoping everything would unfold without a hitch,” said Helker. “The whole night surpassed my expectations completely. We couldn’t have asked for a better performance, or better people to be involved.”
For more information on Jennifer Cowan-Berlet’s NetCo Dance Company, visit their website at www.netcodance.com.