When Penny Hutchinson joined Western's dance department last year, along with three other new faculty members, it became abundantly clear that the department was headed in a new and more sophisticated direction. Little more than a year later, the community has a chance to judge for themselves the accomplishment of the new faculty members, as May 9 marks the opening of this year's Faculty Concert, entitled Leap to Where You Are.

Hutchinson, a former member of the famed Mark Morris Dance Group and a Juilliard alum, received a grant to restage Mark Morris's New Love Song Waltzes for the concert, which will also include five other original pieces choreographed by Western faculty members. Mark Morris, one of the foremost choreographers of the 21st century, and a Seattle native, is known for his characteristic musicality that shines through his choreography.

Waltzes is set to the Johannes Brahms composition, Neue Liebesliederwalzer, Op.65. The piece consists of ten student dancers whom will be accompanied on stage by four opera singers and two pianists on one piano, all members of the Western music department faculty. The music will be directed by Tim Fitzpatrick, also a faculty member.

“I chose [New Love Song Waltzes] because I felt it would be something that the dancer's could relate to at their age, the difficulties of love and how it crashes in and out of your life creating passion and moods,” said Hutchinson. “It was one of my favorite dances absolutely when he made it, and I felt it to be a most passionate dance – and less technically demanding. It demanded your heart.”

The dancers in the piece have been rehearsing since September, and have also undergone two weeks of intensive rehearsals with Kraig Patterson, also a former Mark Morris Dance Group alum. The dancers, all Western students, first performed the piece on Orcas Island as part of an Earth Day celebration.

New Love Song Waltzes, originally choreographed by Morris, premiered on November 4, 1984 in New York as a Dance Theater Workshop production, and was performed by Mark Morris Dance Group. Hutchinson was in the original cast for New Love Song Waltzes.

The reconstruction of New Love Song Waltzes was made possible by American Masterpieces: Dance – a program of the National Endowment of the Arts, which is administered by the New England Foundation for the Arts with Dance/USA.

“It is an experience that can't completely be described in words as it is a dance,” Hutchinson said of New Love Song Waltzes. “It is all about the music. But in a masterly fashion. Mark brings his own rhythms and ideas into it, but Brahms is really his inspiration. The dance is costumed in black and blue. You know like bruises. NLSW is about the tempests of young love. Aching, yearning, fulfilled, reaching, being together, being torn apart, being part of a community.”

Leap to Where You Are will also showcase original choreography by dance department faculty members Rick Merrill, artistic director of the concert, as well as Nolan Dennett, Susan Haines, Brandy Shelton and Pam Kuntz. The concert will open May 10 at 7:30 p.m., and continues on May 11 at 8 p.m., May 12 at 7:30 p.m. and closes on May 13 at 2 p.m. Tickets are available at the PAC box office and are $8 dollars for students and $11 dollars for general admission.

However, apart from New Love Song Waltzes, the concert promises to be an intriguing showcase of how the fledgling dance department has begun to flourish under its recent gain of the Bachelors of Fine Arts program.

“Its going to be a great show, one that will not ever be repeated in quite the same way,” Hutchinson said of the overall concert. “Live music, new music, old music, new choreography, performing in dance and music, a spring concert to remember for a long time, setting new standards of excellence.”