Queens College’s first art festival ends

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Bounding across the stage, snapping their fingers to high-energy pieces from international musicians and making many an audience member laugh in the midst of a flurry of color and dance, Queens College students parodied high fashion and explored the theme of identity as they wrapped up their first-ever summer arts festival last week.

The 16 students involved in the last performance of Summerworks 2010 donned everything from green tutus to massive curly wigs as they danced to six pieces choreographed by Queens College students last Thursday at Rathaus Hall on the school’s Flushing campus. The dance numbers, which ranged from post-modern to jazz and hip-hop, were the culmination of about a month of work and practice for festival participants, who feted the performance as an opportunity to showcase their choreography skills outside of class.

“When you choreograph, it’s your own work, so it makes you more vulnerable than when you dance in someone else’s piece,” said Samantha Beneventano, director of the dance show and a Queens College senior who co-choreographed “leave me where i am,” during which three dancers in bright shades of green and blue danced to the song “Habibi Min Zaman” by the Balkan Beat Box, an Israeli group whose founding members met in Brooklyn.

“You need to realize people can hate it, love it, not understand it, but as long as you’re happy that’s the whole point of it,” said Beneventano, a dance major from Long Island.

Summerworks 2010 was the school’s first summer arts festival and it featured vocal, theater, musical and dance performances, including “Much Ado About Nothing” and “Little Shop of Horrors.”

“It was an amazing collaboration,” said festival director Ralph Carhart. “Ninety-three people — performers, designers, directors, back stage crew and singers — worked hard together.”

Queens College seniors Nessa Rodriguez and Letticia Camacho co-choreographed “Sas. Work. YESSSSS!!!!!,” during which three dancers shimmied and shook their way across the stage to “Futuresex Lovesound” by Justin Timberlake in an effort to make fun of the egotism of high fashion.

“We wanted to parody the fashion world,” said Rodriguez of Flushing. “We wanted to do something jazzy and sexy, and we made it a joke about wanting the spotlight all the time.”

Rodriguez, who is double-majoring in dance and math, also choreographed a solo piece entitled “Clarity,” which she said was about making difficult life decisions while still remaining “true to myself.” This theme of identifying who you are in the midst of great change particularly resonates with many of the choreographers, who are all seniors in college, Rodriguez said.

Queens Village resident Irvin Ajes, a dance and political science major, choreographed a piece entitled “In Your Arms,” set to “Angel” by Sarah McLaughlan, which he said was inspired after his father died of cancer last month.

“I thought at first it was about cancer and how people deal with it,” Ajes said of his dance. “But it became bigger than that. So many people have gone through the same thing, and I bonded with other dancers with their experiences of it.”

Svetlana Ovsyannikova, an Astoria resident originally from Russia, said her dance, “Life is a Melody,” which included music from “Amelie” composer Yann Tiersen, was a modern piece that contrasted “ignorant people in New York and people who really care.”

“It’s so fascinating for me to see how people will act,” said Ovsyannikova, who grew up in a town on the border of Russia and China. “They can ignore so many things. Someone could be dying and they don’t help.”

Ovsyannikova and the other dancers said they were thrilled to be able to choreograph their own pieces and spend time doing what they love in life: dance.

“I went to musical school in Russia, and I was really poor,” Ovsyannikova said. “I couldn’t afford a piano, but I could afford dance shoes, so I took step. Now I love it. It’s my life.”

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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