Ellen Sinopoli Dance Company celebrates 21 years at The Egg

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By Tresca Weinstein, Special to the Times Union

Melissa George and Laura Teeter, dancers with the Ellen Sinopoli Dance Company, have been living parallel lives for quite some time now. Both women graduated from the Boston Conservatory in spring 2004, joined Sinopoli’s company that summer, and have been with her ever since.

“I didn’t anticipate being here this long, but the longer I stayed, the more confident I became, and the more I felt my artistry growing,” Teeter said recently. “I was pretty lucky to land the perfect job for me right out of college.”

In their time with Sinopoli, Teeter and George have seen the company’s public profile grow as well, along with its reputation and base of support. This year, the troupe celebrates its 21st anniversary as the resident company of The Egg. Its annual “home” performance is slated for 8 p.m. Friday.

What accounts for the longevity of the company and its dancers’ long runs? (A third dancer, Claire Jacob-Zysman, has been with the troupe for six years, while Marie Klaiber, Andre Robles and Sara Senecal are newer additions.) George sums it up in two words: “Ellen’s passion.”

“Ellen finds inspiration for dance everywhere,” Teeter said. “She looks for opportunities and makes it happen so she can keep sharing dance.”

Last year, Sinopoli curated the first Next Move Festival of Modern Dance at Proctors; the second annual event is set for March 30–31. She also took dance outside the theater with “Undercover Playground,” a 15-minute work the company performed during the late summer and fall at 27 playgrounds and parks around the Capital Region.

“People need to understand that you don’t always have to go into a theater and sit still to see dance,” Sinopoli said in an interview last week. “There are other ways to experience it. If we can introduce young people to modern dance, they will come to a theater to see it later on.”

But Sinopoli doesn’t let her more traditional repertoire lie fallow while launching such endeavors. She will premiere two new pieces at Friday’s concert: “To Sing, Laugh, Play,” with music by contemporary classical composer John Adams, and “Sea Ghosts,” set to William Harper’s electro-acoustic work “The Gallowing Sea.”

“With ‘Sea Ghosts,’ I started out with one idea, and it went in a different direction,” Sinopoli said. “Initially I was going to look at how, as one gets older, one’s balance and physicality become capricious. Then I started looking at underwater themes, and it became about these mythical underwater creatures whose control over their physicality is granted or taken away at will.” A vibrant abstract painting from Calvin Grimm’s series “Deep Ocean/Deep Space” serves as a backdrop for the dance.

Also on the program are three older works that showcase different sides of the company. “Falling,” with a score by guitarist Maria Zemantauski and percussionist Brian Melick, was commissioned for The Egg’s 25th anniversary in 2003. In “Rising Low,” choreographed to songs by Otis Taylor and Iris DeMent, five women struggle against life’s tragedies, both mundane and profound. Each of the five sections of “Oh My …” is inspired by a quote from a notebook Sinopoli has filled over the years with lines from books she’s read — enigmatic, evocative phrases like “That night she dreamt of sapphire elephants” and “Peaches looked like tastings of a sunset.” It’s set to music from “Appalachia Waltz,” a collection of traditional tunes performed by cellist Yo-Yo Ma, bassist Edgar Meyer and violinist Mark O’Connor.

Two decades after launching her company, Sinopoli says it’s “nice to have more fans of my work, and more people with a deeper understanding of it.” Along with nurturing a dance audience in the Capital Region, she has nurtured a slew of dancers — those who have come and gone as well as those who remain.

“I have truly been able to go deep down inside and find who I am as a dancer, and as a woman,” said George, who got married last year and now owns a home (and a cat). “I’ve been with Ellen for eight seasons now, and I couldn’t ask for anything more. I’m going to keep doing this as long as my body lets me dance.”

Tresca Weinstein is a regular contributor to the Times Union.
At a glance

Where: The Egg, Empire State Plaza, Albany
When: 8 p.m. Friday
Tickets: $24; seniors, $20; children, $12
Info: 473-1845 or http://www.theegg.org
Also: A Prelude talk is scheduled at 7:15 p.m.


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