Mason’s 2020 Dance Gala Headlines Major Choreographers, Two World Premieres, and the FSO!

Dance enthusiasts, we have a treat for you! “The Mason Dance Company 2020 Gala Concert on March 27 and March 28 at 8:00 p.m. offers an astonishingly relevant and exciting program,” says Director of the Mason School of Dance Susan Shields. “We are honored and excited to perform work from some of the most important choreographers of our time, including Kyle Abraham, Micaela Taylor, Christopher d'Amboise, and Rafael Bonachela.”

The first work on the evening-length program is Drive (2017) by Kyle Abraham, who was listed in 2009 as one of Dance Magazine’s “25 to Watch.” Abraham is a master at mixing genres, giving form to a core vocabulary of fluid hip-hop along with the strictures of fully staged modern dance. He readily admits that the origins of his dance career began in the club world of his teen years growing up in Pittsburgh. That memory informs Drive, a work celebrating the ecstasy of the club experience. “I made Drive to get back to a rawer sense of urban vibe,” he says, adding, “it’s a fun piece to watch.” But it’s not all sensuality, as Abraham notes, “There is a hidden agenda in the piece. It is at the heart, if you listen to the lyrics.” That added message comes courtesy of Barack Obama. “There is Obama’s voice, but unintelligible. I toyed around with several endings but this was the one [I settled on.]” 

Abraham’s “Drive” will be followed by Micaela Taylor’s ‘90Sugar, a new work that reflects Ms. Taylor’s diverse movement background. Taylor is a young, upcoming choreographer who was featured in Dance Magazine’s “25 To Watch” list in 2019.  She grew up in Los Angeles, where she began studying hip-hop at a very early age and eventually studied both modern and ballet. Taylor describes her inspiration for ‘90Sugar as work as an awareness of being young—she was young in the 90’s—and moving out into the world. Tam Visher composed the sound score for the piece. Mason sophomore dance student Hadiya Matthews describes ‘90Sugar as “exponentially expressive. The piece is fused with modern and hip-hop influences. Specifically, the piece utilizes intense and rapid movements seen in Krumping, a form of hip-hop with ideas from “Clowning.” This movement was used by at-risk youth escaping gangs looking for ways to express themselves in a non-violent manner. The piece is expansive and colorful, widening the audience's view of graphic and powerful images.” Matthews calls the work passionate and imaginative. “It draws you in and you can’t stop watching.”

In addition to Taylor’s new work, Christopher d'Amboise will premiere his newest yet to be titled work. D’Amboise is a Heritage Professor in the School of Dance here at Mason. Born into a family of dancers, he became a principal dancer in the New York City Ballet before becoming the artistic director, president, and CEO of the Pennsylvania Ballet from 1990-1994. He also has a passion for musical theatre and performed in the Broadway production of Song and Dance, which earned him a Tony Award nomination for Best Featured Actor in a Musical. d’Amboise says that, for him, music is always the gateway into a vision for a choreographic landscape, and for the Dance Gala Concert, Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G major has sparked his imagination. He says, “The 2nd movement is exciting with its sweeping lyrical exaltation that is suddenly undercut by an intentional “wrong notes,” expressing a kind of “broken beauty” that is haunting and captivating.” With that in mind, d’Amboise juxtaposes traditional poetic phrasing with contemporary athleticism and angular lines. Seven dancers move along together as a singular unit until one dancer attempts to break away from the whole, rippling momentum and energy that ultimately changes or evolves the group.

The final work is Variations 10by Rafael Bonachela. The luscious work for 16 dancers was originally choreographed for the Sydney Dance Company, where Bonachela is the Artistic Director. Variation 10 takes the audience on a journey of moods, emotions, and changing visual landscapes. Set to Benjamin Britten’s Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge, this romantic and visceral work illuminates the shimmering score. A wonderful marriage of music and dance, the Fairfax Symphony Orchestra will perform with the Mason Dance Company for this work. 

Held prior to the March 28 Dance Gala Concert performance, The Mason Dance Fête is an intimate benefit to showcase Mason dancers and programs. Patrons are invited into a dance studio to witness students rehearsing sections of the works to be performed that evening and listen to insights about the choreographer and the work itself. In another studio, patrons can engage in a discussion on Dance and Music with featured choreographer Christopher d'Amboise and Christopher Zimmerman, Music Director and Conductor of the Fairfax Symphony Orchestra. In the hallway between the two studio spaces, attendees will delight in moving statues, films, lights, and music. Both studio presentations will run twice throughout the evening, so that all have an opportunity to participate in each event, helping to set the mood and create context for the Gala Concert performances.

All net proceeds from The Mason Dance Fête go towards the School of Dance scholarship funds. The event, which is Co-Chaired by Kimberly K. Eby and Donna L. Kidd, begins at 5:30 p.m. and will include wine, hors d’oeuvres, and a dessert reception. WellDun will cater the food, the Fairfax Country Club will donate desserts, and Vicki Salmon will contribute flower arrangements.

For more information about the Mason Dance Fête on Saturday, March 28 at 5:30 p.m. in the deLaski Performing Arts Building, visit:

Mason Dance Company Gala Concert:
Friday, March 27 at 8:00 p.m. and Saturday, March 28 at 8:00 p.m. at the Center for the Arts