Falmouth teenager's choice is her own ballet

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FALMOUTH — It’s been a long-held dream of Kendra Murray’s to choreograph her own dance, and now she’s getting that chance.

Murray, who is 17 and a junior at Falmouth High School, will dance an original creation at this week’s Dancer’s Choice show at the Maine State Ballet.

The goal of Dancer’s Choice is to highlight “each dancer’s unique, individualized style and artistry,” according to Linda Miele, the ballet’s artistic director.

Dancer’s Choice will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday, June 22 and 23, at 348 U.S. Route 1, in Falmouth. Tickets are $15-$20 and can be ordered online at mainestateballet.org, or by calling 781-7672.

There will be a dessert reception immediately following each performance to allow audience members to mingle with the dancers, with all proceeds benefiting the dancers’ fund.

Murray choreographed her piece with fellow dancer Kallee Gallant, a student at Greely High School in Cumberland. The two will be accompanied by Gregory Pershing, another student at Greely, who Murray called “a very talented pianist.”

“We very seldom get to hear live music played at our shows, so it will be a treat,” Miele said of Murray’s original dance, which features a piano piece composed by Mozart.

Murray and Gallant are both dancers in the Maine State Ballet company and have attended dance classes together for years. Murray, who was promoted to the company last summer,  said, “I just love dancing and performing.”

In addition to ballet, which she’s studied for the past 13 years, Murray also takes tap and jazz lessons.

“Usually when we put on shows, the dancers are playing a character,” she said. “With Dancer’s Choice, we get to show off our individuality and our own style.”

“We had a lot of fun coming up with a dance that really represents who we are,” Murray added of the piece she choreographed with Gallant. “We’ve been wanting to do a duet together for a long time.”

Murray said while she and Gallant have had the same ballet teachers over the years, “we’re really opposites” when it comes to dance and their individual personalities. That’s why they titled their number “Ebony and Ivory.”

“The whole point of the piece,” Murray said, “is that while we’re best friends and have had the same training, we are very different personalities with our own energy.”

Murray said the dance number includes sections where she and Gallant dance together and other sections where each has a solo.

In choreographing her own dance piece, Murray said, “I definitely appreciate Mrs. Miele more. I never understood how hard choreography can be. It takes like three hours of work to come up with a 10-second phrase.”

While creating an original dance number was “harder than I thought,” Murray also said, “I enjoyed the experience and it’s something I would definitely like to do again.”

Leading up to Dancer’s Choice, Murray said she and Gallant have rehearsed with Pershing twice and they will also have a chance to work out any further kinks during dress rehearsal.

“I really enjoy dancing to live music,” Murray said. “We’ve been able to discuss the best way to present the music in terms of the dance.” For example, she said, Murray and Gallant asked Pershing to provide a longer introduction.

Having someone play while they dance, Murray said, also allowed her and Gallant to “really shape the music into what we imagined the piece should be.”

In addition to featuring the individual company dancers in the first part of the show, the second half of Dancer’s Choice will include an original short ballet choreographed by Glenn Davis, a principal dancer and the school director at Maine State Ballet.

His ballet, entitled “Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto,” has been 10 years in the making and has been “a true labor of love,” according to Miele.

“It’s important for the growth and longevity of the company to foster new choreographers (and) Glenn has demonstrated (that) he has great vision,” she added. “It’s not just about putting steps together, it’s about working with dancers (and) highlighting their strengths.”

Murray said she would like to continue to dance in college and beyond, but her dream is to become a physical therapist with a practice focused on dancers.

“Ballet is very physically exacting,” she said. “But as a visual art form the goal is to make it look beautiful and easy.”

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 710-2336 or kcollins@theforecaster.net. Follow Kate on Twitter: @KirishCollins.

Kendra Murray, 17 and a junior at Falmouth High School, will dance an originally choreographed number during this week’s Dancer’s Choice show at the Maine State Ballet.