In his first academic year on the job, he has helped with changes to the degree programs and created a more flexible schedule for students to take some technique classes. The department also had a great response to its first-time streaming its student choreography production in October. Analytics showed that more than 5,000 people from around the world clicked on to watch.
“We’ve made some really good progress in a short amount of time,” he says.
He credits the support of the faculty and student body for making these things happen, even while grieving the recent losses of longtime professor of dance Ron Tassone and Mary Petrov, the wife of Nicolas Petrov, founder of Point Park’s dance program.
Point Park Conservatory Dance Company at Byham Theater
When: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
“That has been something that’s been really hard but also really inspiring, watching the students come together and create a sense of community,” he says.
More of Mr. Graciani’s vision for the department will be on display this weekend at the annual Point Park University Conservatory Dance Company’s mixed repertory program at Byham Theater, Downtown. This will be the first program of his Point Park tenure in which he selected the pieces the students will perform.
“I wanted to support the students we have,” he says, by choosing choreographers who will “push them and stretch them to reach and grow as young artists.”
Historically, the Byham bill is heavy on the likes of Balanchine, Graham and on-the-pulse choreographers of the present, such as Trey McIntyre. This time, students will share a sampling of works by Lar Lubovitch, Emery LeCrone and Mark Morris, whose company Mr. Graciani performed and toured with for five years after college. The lineup also will include a premiere by Bennyroyce Royon.
Putting together a mix of new pieces and proven ones was important to Mr. Graciani. Mr. Lubovitch’s “The Legend of Ten” (Brahms Quintet for Piano and Strings in F Minor, Op. 34) and Mr. Morris’ “Grand Duo” (Lou Harrison score) represent the “established masterworks.” Live music will accompany the latter work.
Spotlighting choreographers of color and female artists was — and will continue to be — another goal, he says. Ms. LeCrone premiered her first ballet in 2006 and since has created more than 50 works. Point Park dancers will mount her piece “Divergence” (Joby Talbot score), which was commissioned by the Oregon Ballet Theatre and premiered in 2010.
Another highlight — and an atypical element — of this year’s program is the decision to premiere a work made for the students.
“It’s risky,” Mr. Graciani says. In this case, Mr. Royon’s “Body Electric” draws inspiration from the Walt Whitman poem “I Sing the Body Electric” and challenges students to tap into their artistry in different ways.
“He’s really tasked them with being really mature performers,” he says.
Sara Bauknecht: email@example.com or on Twitter and Instagram @SaraB_PG.
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