Synapse dancers ready for the stage

A smooth "swish" filled the University High School gym last Thursday, captivating the audience inside. But it wasn't the sound of nothin' but net that the Uni students were hearing. Rather, it was the sound of SMC dancers performing "Sweep," a piece in which brooms are used to create percussive cracks, thuds, and swishes. "Sweep" is just one of the dances in this year's Synapse Dance Theater, a contemporary dance show that dance professor Linda Gold has been organizing and directing annually for the last 35 years.

Every year the show is different, offering a new set of dances that range widely in style. This year is especially different because Gold has decided to resign from the role of director and allow faculty members Roberta Wolin-Tupas and Russell Scott Conte to take over as co-directors. In Gold's words, "It's time for new blood."

Wolin-Tupas has a master's in Choreography and Performance from UCLA and has worked in the field of dance for over 30 years. Conte has danced professionally with multiple companies. Considering their experience and expertise, it is safe to say that the Synapse tradition will maintain its level of professionalism.

This was evident on Thursday. No one would have guessed that it was the ensemble's first performance in front of an audience, and even though there were only a few high school classes watching, who's to say that isn't a tough crowd? As Helen Pettersson, one of the dancers, put it: "They're honest."

"It went surprisingly well," says Danielle Alexander, a former University High student who appears in many of the dances, including the slow graceful duet, "Hope Eternal." Performing at her old school was made even more personal by the fact that her old teacher was in the audience. "It was very exciting," Alexander says.

"Hope Eternal," which is choreographed by Wolin-Tupas and SMC dance professor Robert J. Whidbee, is one of the highlights of this year's Synapse. As an elegant piano ballad streams along, an intimate love story is told through the body movements of Alexander and Iacovos Hadijivasili.

Another highlight of the show is a trippy modern dance titled, "Warped Time," and is choreographed by Jessica Pusateri, one of the student dancers. Pusateri, who already has a Bachelor of Arts degree in dance and is working toward getting her master's, originally wrote the dance as a solo. Now, it incorporates nine dancers who each wear shirts showing crooked hands of a clock pointing to scattered numbers.

"It deals with different aspects of time," says Pusateri. This theme is effective throughout the piece, reaching a pinnacle when the beat drops out as the dancers shift into slow motion.

The show ends with Conte's "The Mod Pod," a coquettish number choreographed to the Austin Powers theme song. As this dance came to an end in the University High gym, it was clear they were ready for the big stage.

The ensemble will be performing on the Broad Stage at the SMC Performing Arts Center on Nov. 5 at 7:30 p.m. They will also be performing there on Nov. 6 at 4 p.m., and again at 7:30 p.m. General admission tickets are $20, but SMC students with valid ID (and seniors over 65) only pay $15.