Florida School of the Arts presents Dance Choreography Gala


Kicking off the dance performance season at the Florida School of the Arts, located on the Palatka campus of St. Johns River State College, is the Dance Choreography Gala, which runs November 18 – 20. An array of dance -- including ballet, contemporary, tap, dance film and hip hop – has been created by faculty, guest artists, alumni and select students and is sure to have audience members moving to the beat and tapping their feet. The artistic creations of the costuming and lighting design students will also play a key role in bringing each dance to life. Show times are 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and 2:30 p.m. on Sunday on the FloArts Main Stage Theatre. Admission is $5.

FloArts dance instructor and Gala co-director Mary Love Ward said, “This gala concert celebrates the collaborative artistic process and showcases a wide scope of dance choreography, so there is sure to be something for all artistic tastes. Due to the inclusive nature of this concert, student dancers have a unique opportunity to perform works by established choreographers as well as their peers. This gives the students invaluable experiences that foster self-discovery about the creative process.”

Pieces from guest artists and faculty include a tap dance by Jenne Vermes; excerpts from the ballet “Coppelia,” restaged by Mary Love Ward; a world premiere contemporary ballet piece by Jessica Mayhew Borrero; and a dance film created by guest artist Shelley Manry Bourgeois, featuring Borrero. There will also be a hip hop dance by professional choreographer Larry Albright, which was commissioned especially for FloArts dance students.

“Mr. Albright was in residence this fall teaching master classes and setting his new choreography on dance majors,” said Ward. “He comes to FloArts with a wealth of expertise in the area of hip hop and commercial dance, having choreographed for artists such as Mohombi (‘Bumpy Ride’), Sean Kingston (‘Fire Burning’), and Sophia Del Carmen (‘No Te Quiero’).” Albright has been featured as an opening act for popular artists such as Nelly, Common, Lil’ Mo, and Fabolous. He has also been seen on MTV's “My Super Sweet 16,” where he opened for the artist Pitbull. “Residencies with guest artists of his caliber allow our students opportunities to make important professional connections,” Ward explained.
Alongside the professional choreography selections will be three student-choreographed contemporary dances: ‘Unsteadily Holding On,’ choreographed by Austin Carroll and Ashley Mercado; ‘Instability,’ choreographed by Havilah Moore and Ashley Mercado; and ‘Falling Recovery,’ choreographed by Havilah Moore. “The student choreography in the concert is selected through a screening process supervised by a faculty committee,” said Ward.

The Dance Choreography Gala will also include alumni choreography by Alexandria Holloway (class of 2015), Kayla Neeper (class of 2016), and Ursala Allen (class of 2010), who will also be performing. Ward explained that the alumni dances were selected through an adjudication process as part of FloArts’ annual alumni choreography submission project. “This is the second year of the submission project, and we are pleased to have our alumni return to inspire our current students,” she said. “As faculty members, it makes us proud to include curated selections of student and alumni work alongside dances by established choreographers. We feel it is vital to give young choreographers the opportunity to develop their voice as artists and for our dance students to work collaboratively alongside them in this process.”

FloArts students performing in the Gala are Robert Allen, Mitchel Burns, Yul Carrion, Austin Carroll, Caitlin Charrier, Kacey Clark, Savannah Faulkner, Bella Guzman, Gordia Hayes, Ashley Mercado, Savannah Mitchell, Pascale Molina, Moore, Brooke Ponitz, Libby Rodriguez, Yasmin Rohena, Justin Savage, Katrina Smith, Emerson Smith-von Wiegen, Emma Stimpson, Remy Vignati, Mark Wildman and Matthew Wilson.

FloArts production staff include: Mayhew and Ward, directors; Emily Strickland, costume coordinator; Robert O’Leary, technical director and faculty scenic and lighting design supervisor; Kylee Risdon, stage manager; Tiffany Jordan, costume shop manager; William Searcy Holley IV, master electrician and lighting system supervisor; John Robinson, light board operator; Katrina Babitzke, sound board operator; Babitzke, Mitchell Collins, J.H. Gallardo, Braden Harrington, Holley, Melissa Hund, Brianna Osmond, Brittany Posso, Risdon, Robinson and Jeno Tate, painters and electricians; Mitchell Collins, Sarah Cox, Devin Fuentes, J.H. Gallardo, Uvenka Jean-Baptiste, Katy Page, Emily Parks, Ritchie Rodriguez, Stimpson and Alexa Williams, costume construction crew.

Florida School of the Arts is part of the academic and administrative structure of SJR State and awards the two-year associate degree. The School serves the entire state of Florida and is located on the SJR State Palatka campus. For more information, call 386-312-4300 or visit the website at


Florida School of the Arts students Justin Savage, Ashley Mercado, Austin Carroll and Havilah Moore rehearse for the school’s annual “Dance Choreography Gala.” Each year, the dance, costume and stage design programs join together to create a colorful and exciting evening of imagery and movement. The show runs November 18-20.



Susan Kessler
Director of Public Relations and Publications
(386) 312-4020