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France-born dancer to perform 'Appalachian Spring' suite

By Autumn D. F. Hopkins

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Virginie Mécène, of the Martha Graham Dance Company, will join this year's FestivALL Dance Gala as a special guest performer.

Born in France, Mécène immigrated to the U.S. in 1988 to dance with the Martha Graham company. She is now the director of both the dance school and of the junior dance school, Graham II.

While participating in the gala, Mécène and her dance partner, Martin Lofsnes, will perform "Appalachian Spring Suite," a shortened version of "Appalachian Spring," a ballet scored by Aaron Copland and choreographed by Martha Graham that was first performed in 1944. Mécène describes the dance as "a beautiful piece of Americana about love, about celebrating life and the future."

The Martha Graham Dance Company, of which Mécène is a former principal dancer, has performed "Appalachian Spring" and "Appalachian Spring Suite" all over the world,

"We are very much an international company," she said in a recent phone interview.

Mécène said "Appalachian Spring Suite" is the story of a young couple on their wedding day, a celebration of American hope. The dance is broken into four parts: a solo by the bride, a duet, a solo by the groom and a final duet.

"In this performance, we are not going to do the whole dance. In the version that we're going to show, it is just the bride and her husband," Mécène said. This is a shortened version of the entire dance, which includes a few more characters such as a pastor and a chorus of young women.

"The beauty about this suite is that there is a narrator. There is text in between the dances, and that text is communication between Martha Graham and Aaron Copland when they were exchanging ideas about the music. So at the same time the audience can hear a little musical history about how the piece was created between the two of them," Mécène said.

She said they would love to have a West Virginian read those texts as part of the program, but they have not cast the role of narrator yet. The company hopes to do so before the June 26 performance.

The gala also will include numbers performed by members of the Charleston Ballet and the River City Youth Ensemble.

On the night of June 25, preceding the gala, Mécène will offer a master class for local dancers at the Clay Center. The fee is $20 and space is limited.

The FestivALL Dance Gala will take place at 7:30 p.m. June 26 in the Culture Center Theater. Tickets are $20 and are available at the door and in advance at the Clay Center, from the Charleston Ballet, River City Youth Ballet Ensemble or at Taylor Books.

Reach Autumn D.F. Hopkins at autumn.hopkins@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1249.


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