Pacific Dance Ensemble (PDE), joins Newport School of Artistic Movement (NSAM) to present their 36th annual “Dances from the Heart: A Celebration of Spring” directed by Nancy Mittleman. The celebration has been moved this year to June 2, 3, 4, and thus has transformed from a Valentines celebration to a celebration of Spring. This year’s “Dances from the Heart” and will feature works by PDE/NSAM alumni Amber Star Merkens and Livanna Maislen (formerly Marissa Maislen), live music of the Ecuadorian guest musician, Alex Llumiquinga, who will accompany PDE and NSAM dancers performing choreography based on traditional rhythms of Llumiquinga’s family in the Andes. The show will also feature a guest appearance by members of the Newport High Jazz Band, playing live for PDE and NSAM dancers. “Dances from the Heart: A Celebration of Spring”, will be presented one weekend only, at the Newport Performing Arts Center, Friday, June 2nd and June 3rd at 7pm and Sunday June 4th at 2pm. As is traditional for “Dances from the Heart” performances, PDE will have a benefit auction featuring works by local artists and businesses, the monies from which are used to expand local dance awareness, bringing in guest artists and taking dancers to performances by world renown dancers. PDE is currently accepting donations. As PDE is a non-profit tax-exempt organization, all donations are tax deductible.
As the Lincoln County community of young artists continues to expand, PDE alumni weave themselves into the fiber of new communities and then bring their worlds back to share with us. PDE will perform an adaptation of “Ontoyou” originally choreographed by PDE/NSAM alumni Amber Star Merkens while she was attending Juilliard in New York City. Since her graduation from Juilliard, Merkens went on to dance with the Jose Limon Company (2 years) and then the Mark Morris Dance Group (12 years), where she danced multiple iconic roles, including Dido and the Sorceress in Morris’ venerable work, “Dido and Aeneas”, as well as pieces Morris originally choreographed for himself. With 2 beautiful children to nurture, Merkens cut back on touring and went back to school, becoming an herbalist, doula, and lactation consultant, while continuing to work as Rehearsal Director for Dance Heginbotham, with whom she also occasionally performs.
PDE/NSAM alumni Livanna Maislen received her BFA in Dance at NYU Tisch School of the Arts. Maislen has performed dance, theatre & aerial-installations both nationally and abroad. While Dancer/Rehearsal Assistant with Time Lapse Dance (a Loie Fuller-inspired company), Maislen led residencies at Hofstra and De Sale’s University. In 2013, Maislen became a performer with the Off-Broadway show Sleep No More, where she played eight different roles during her 7-year tenure with Punchdrunk. In 2015, Maislen became Dancer and Rehearsal Assistant for The Francesca Harper Project (FHP), where she assisted in projects such as Nick Cave’s Bessie-Award Winning show “The Let Go”, Nona Hendryx & Carrie Mae Weem’s “Refrigerated Dreams” and Austria’s Bregenzer Fruehling’s Tanzfestival. She is currently pursuing her master’s degree in Somatic Psychotherapy at California Institute of Integral Studies.
Alex Llumiquinga and father of PDE and NSAM dancers Ameli and Kelpi Llumiquinga, grew up learning traditional Andean songs from friends and neighbors in his Quito, Ecuador neighborhood, El Inca. He followed his passion for this music by traveling to Europe, Israel and finally the U.S. Lluminquinga created a family orchestra, teaching his kids to be the next generation of musicians and keepers of this beautiful music. PDE and NSAM dancers will perform to traditional Fandango and Sanjuanito rhythms. Both originated in Imbabura, Ecuador. Fandango is danced during weddings and the Sanjuanita is a pre-Hispanic rhythm now known for honoring St. John whose holiday coincides with more ancient celebrations of the summer solstice.
The success of the dance training acquired at PDE and NSAM is clearly evident as one looks at the outstanding achievements of PDE and NSAM alumni who have gone on to study and perform in such places as Juilliard (NYC), Mark Morris Dance Group (NYC), the Limon Dance Company (NYC), Chris Elam’s Misnomer Dance Co. (NYC), Coyote Dance (NYC), Martha Graham Studio (NYC), the Fringe Festival in NYC, Edinburgh and Annapolis, San Diego Dance Theater, San Francisco Ballet, Paco Gnomes and Co. (SF), Requisite Dance (SF), Lineage Dance Co. (LA), Headwaters Dance Co, (Missoula, MT), Dancer’s Workshop (Jackson, WY), Eugene Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet (WA), Cornish Institute for the Arts, California Institute for the Arts, The Laban School (London), Interlochen (MI), Bennington College (VT), Ballet Austin, Colorado West Performing Arts Company, Cincinnati Ballet, American Ballet Theater and Tisch at New York University.