Wednesday, September 22, 2010

room to soar

"State of the art" may be so overused that the phrase has become drained of meaning, but the dedication of the de Laski Performing Arts Building last night made these words come alive.

This new structure on GMU’s Fairfax campus is a spacious home for the Schools of Dance and Music. As students, faculty, administrators, donors, and the architects gathered yesterday to dedicate the building, I was mesmerized by the glory of the design. It's a place where imaginations can soar. It is also a testament to both generosity -- a gift from philanthropists Donald and Nancy de Laski made it possible to build this center  -- and dedication. The long-term commitment of faculty like Linda Miller who have been stalwart in their dedication to state of the art training and performances for dancers at GMU has turned aspirations into manifestations. 

While I enjoyed hearing recollections from Donald de Laski, as well as the President of GMU, Dr. Alan M Merten, and the Dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts, William F. Reeder, it was choreography by Susan Shields and Christopher d’Amboise that enlivened the occasion. Shields’ duet called “Displaced” was performed by Alejandro Alvarez and Kailee Combs, students who have a stunning purity. Dressed all in white, they melted and folded into one another as if made of rice paper. Shields’ choreography is distinguished by its clarity and emotional nuance; d’Amboise offered a more boisterous celebration. Set to an adaptation of Benny Goodman’s “Sing, Sing, Sing” played by GMU's Jazz Chamber Ensemble, his choreography featured 13 dancers grooving to the rhythms. Shields and d’Amboise are artists who imbue their students with discipline and grace. It seems fitting that they can now teach in a building that radiates creativity and innovation.

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