Dancers dazzled and enchanted in Grossmont Dance department’s annual “Entrances and Exits”

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Anytime that the Grossmont College Dance Departments puts on one of its concerts, everybody knows they are in for a good show. Last weekend’s annual “Entrances and Exits” concert at the Joan B. Kroc Theatre was no different.

Department Chair Kathy Meyer and Instructor David Mullen opened with the announcement of three recipients of the department’s Excellence in Dance scholarships.

Anytime that the Grossmont College Dance Departments puts on one of its concerts, everybody knows they are in for a good show. Last weekend’s annual “Entrances and Exits” concert at the Joan B. Kroc Theatre was no different.

Department Chair Kathy Meyer and Instructor David Mullen opened with the announcement of three recipients of the department’s Excellence in Dance scholarships.

“Normally, we give this scholarship to one person. But this year, we had three excellent students,” Meyer said, nodding to Marlene Garcia, Jarel Lewis and Haley Thomas. “Congratulations to you all.”

Mullen reminded everyone to hold off their cheers and applause until after the end of each performance.

“I hope you enjoy the concert. I think it’s a particularly good one this year,” he said.

And then the program started with a lively jazz number choreographed by Nancy Boskin-Mullen. The audience fell silent and entranced with the next performance “Perte et Dueil: A Duet,” choreographed by David Mullen and the dancers. The dance was a memorial tribute to Sharon Neumann, a counselor in the Grossmont Middle College High School. It was a lovely mix of modern and ballet dance by Jodi Ferri and Clarissa Shultz to the music of “A Thousand Years.” 

Every year, the dance concert includes a performance with the dancers using a prop. For this year, “Novel Inspirations” had the dancers musing and moving with books in their hands. The dance, choreographed by Colleen Shipkowski, opened with several different monologues of the dancers’ voices speaking about their love of reading.

David Mullen put together a fun piece with “At the Museum.” The performance opened with a young couple sitting on a bench looking at Klimt’s painting of “The Kiss.” Soon the young couple moved closer together and danced in swooning, swirling circles around and over each other. A pair of cartwheel artists spun through the stage, a tourist group promenaded through and finally a dancer moved onstage with a walker. The piece jumped with all the stages of life.

After the concert, Mullen talked about how he got the idea for the piece when he went to the exhibit at the San Diego Museum of Art of 20th century icons from Gaugin to Warhol.

“It was a brilliant collection. And as I was looking at all the paintings, I noticed all these different people—the young lovers, the older lady with the walker, and a tourist group with a guide holding a flag,” Mullen said. 

“And I helped with choosing some of the music,” said his 17-year-old daughter, Adi Mullen.

Mullen’s earlier request to the audience to hold their cheers until the end of the performance went unheeded at Melissa Adao’s “Gonna Make You Sweat.” But hardly anyone was sitting still or keeping quiet, due to the energy of the seven hip-hop dancers. Jarel Lewis, the young man who was one of the scholarship recipients, had everyone holding their breath with the way he closed out the performance, slinking low and powerful across the stage.

The concert ended with “Swingin’ It/The Big Apple” choreographed by Nancy Boskin-Mullen and Anne Leudtke. The jitterbug dancers did their Charleston Steps to the beat of Count Basie and Lee Norman’s tunes. As a result of the happy, energetic dance, Boskin-Mullen is sure to get many more students next semester in her ballroom dance class.

All the dancers gathered in the lobby after the performance, their faces bright and shiny. Jarel Lewis met his parents who had smiles and congratulations for him. Now a dance major, Lewis took his first dance class just a year ago. 

“I’d always liked dancing on the side, doing a little in my room with the door shut,” he said, grinning, “but when I took Kathy Meyer’s class I fell in love with dance.”

“This is the first semester that I have felt really confident in what I am to do in life. Dance has helped me with that,” said Lewis, who plans to continue in dance at a four-year university.

His mother Kathy Williams agreed. “He’s taking care of himself more than he has before,” she said.

Mayte Gutierrez and her classmate and friend Stephanie Williams were all smiles after their last performance in “Swinging’ It/The Big Apple.

“I’m still tired. But it makes me so happy,” said Williams, who had danced at Helix High and Cuyamaca College. “I took a couple of years off from school because I had to earn some money, but now it’s so good to get back into dancing and get in shape.”

Both Williams and Gutierrez said the last performance was their favorite dance.

“The music is a celebration, a release of energy,” Gutierrez said.

Meyer has been Dance Department chair since 1989. She also co-directs the faculty dance concert every fall semester. This year, a special Alumni Dance Concert will feature several instructors including Meyer as well as former students who have moved on with their dance careers. Call 619-644-6677 for tickets.