Imagine kids ages 9 to 12 completely silent while in motion.
It happened when they danced with professional dancers from the internationally-acclaimed Pilobolus dance company. The company conducted master classes for four days at Shoreline Ballet’s Guilford studio during Guilford’s Performing Arts Festival in the last week of September.
A pair of young students listened to the instructions by Pilobolus dancer, Emily Kent, who taught the youngsters modern dance movements.
“What if I swing my arm from my hip to my shoulder, then add a little more movement like a cartwheel or moving your head,” she advised.
Several Shoreline Ballet students eagerly came to more than one master class and spoke enthusiastically about the experience of working with celebrated professionals.
Kenna Dwyer, a seventh-grade ballet student, said, “The class was really fun, but different. We didn’t move in the usual way. Ballet is serious, but with this modern style of dancing, every movement doesn’t need to be exact. I wanted to do it again.”
Maeve Mongelli, a sixth-grader who has studied ballet for eight years, liked creating her own choreography with this improvisational dance form.
“I felt we had to think about it, and it could be difficult to come up with ideas. But there’s no right or wrong and it’s also very free.”
Hannah Contessa, a ninth-grader and red-haired daughter of the director of Shoreline Ballet, Katie Contessa, found the Pilobolus master class “amusing, with a different energy, really cool movements. I haven’t been exposed to using the full weight of a partner. So with these new movements, my quads were a little sore.”
Shoreline Ballet Director Katie Contessa described the two Pilobolus dancers Emily Kent and Roberto Olvera as “wonderful teachers as well as dancers — an unusual combination of talents. Pilobolus dance is very physical — sharing people’s body weights and mirroring one another.” She hopes to have Pilobolus return to her ballet studio in Guilford often.
The Pilobolus dancers also gave classes in balance and movement for seniors at Evergreen Woods retirement community in North Branford and worked with students at Guilford High School’s Theatre Arts program. The full company performed at Guilford High School Sept. 28.
Pilobolus was formed in 1971 at Dartmouth College and has created and toured over 120 pieces of repertory to more than 65 countries. Their performances reach 300,000 in audiences around the United States each year. The Emmy-winning company has been featured on major network television programs.
After dancing professionally with several companies, Shoreline Ballet director Kathryn (Katie) Contessa taught at New Haven Ballet and created an outreach program, DanceAir, that brought dance to over 200 New Haven public school students. She is certified in the American Ballet Theatre’s National Training curriculum Primary-level 3. Her studio provides classes for children 3 to 18 and adults. She lives in Guilford with her husband and four daughters.