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Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Charter School's Catalyst performs ‘Dancing in the Eye of the Storm’ at Academy of Music

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  • PHOTO COURTESY OF CATALYST DANCE COMPANY<br/>Maijalisa Mitlz and Maya Lawerence
  • PHOTO BY PETER RAPER<br/>Catalyst dancers
  • PHOTO BY JOSH SIGOYUMA<br/>Catalyst Dance Company
  • Amherst College theater and dance professor Wendy Woodson directs Ron Bashford during a rehearsal last week of "Waypoint," as cast member Paul Matteson looks on. The three have collaborated during rehearsals to refine the piece that Woodson wrote.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

Fifteen years ago a group of students sat among the audience in awe of choreographer Bill T. Jones’ dance performance at the Academy of Music Theatre in Northampton. The students’ admiration of Jones’ work inspired Jodi Falk, then the director of dance at the Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Charter School, then located in Hadley, to create a modern dance troupe at the school designed to encourage her students to pursue similar chorographic and dance proficiency. What began as a small group has grown to the nationally touring pre-professional dance company, Catalyst.

The group has come full circle to the moment that served as its “catalyst.” Today and Friday, the company’s student dancers will take the stage at the Academy of Music to perform “Continuous Replay,” a dance choreographed by Jones, as a part of the troupe’s 15th-anniversary performance, “Dancing in the Eye of the Storm.”

Catalyst is the first high school group to be given permission to perform the piece, said Jen Polins, Catalyst’s current director.

“It’s really an honor for us and it’s a beautiful, electrifying piece,” Polins said.

Catalyst holds shows every spring. However this year it is incorporating alumni performances and a photo display in the lobby to commemorate its anniversary.

“There are so many young people from our area that we’re celebrating,” Polins said. “Plus were bringing in all these alumni who were local kids here.”

Polins said the alumni will be an important element of the show. Participating individuals include Lucas Klinge who has performed professionally with Ballet Austin since his graduation from PVPA, and Sakina Ibrahim who has performed with Renee Harris Pure Movement. PVPA and Catalyst alumni have returned to the school to perform in the past, Polins said, as well as to teach master classes and give lectures.

There will be a special pre-show event for the alumni who can’t make it back for the show.

“We’re Skyping them,” Polins said. Some of the alumni, like Sakina Ibrahim, who attends graduate school in Los Angeles, will perform via Skype, with their dances projected onto a screen.

In addition to “Continuous Replay,” Catalyst will perform “Dance is” choreographed by Catalyst founder, Falk. The piece spans genres to look at how expansive dance is.

“She’s including audience participation,” Polins said. “Gets them clapping and gets them moving.”

“Dancing in the Eye of the Storm” will be performed tonight and Friday at 7 at The Academy of Music, 274 Main St., Northampton. Advance tickets cost $12; $10 for seniors and military; $6 for students and children under 12. At the door, they are $14 general; $12; $8. To reserve, call 584-9032, ext. 105.

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