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Performing Arts

SMTD Students Perform with Top London Dance Company

A Servant in the House, 1916. This was the first U-M play produced for college credit.
Michael Parmelee and Maeve McEwen performing a duet from Alston's "Brisk Singing"

Michael Parmelee and Maeve McEwen performing a duet from Alston’s “Brisk Singing.”

When the Richard Alston Dance Company (RADC) celebrated its 20th anniversary in London with a special concert series in June, two dance students from U-M ‘s School of Music, Theatre & Dance (SMTD) were among the featured performers.

Michael Parmelee, an MFA candidate, and Maeve McEwen, who will be a BFA senior this fall, gave what described as a “glowing and sensual account” of the concluding duet from Alston’s Brisk Singing, which the couple had previously performed in February at the dance department’s annual Power Center concerts.

Richard Alston, one of the United Kingdom’s seminal contemporary dance choreographers, attended those performances at the invitation of dance department chair Angela Kane, a scholar of Alston’s work who initiated the restaging of Brisk Singing at U-M.

Delighted by the full ensemble of 11 that performed his work–inspiring him to restage the full work for his own company next season–Alston was so impressed by Parmelee’s and McEwen’s duet that he invited them to perform it on the London anniversary series, titled “At Home.”

“It truly was the most amazing experience,” said McEwen upon her return to the U.S. “The company was incredibly welcoming, and it was so special to work with Richard and Martin (Lawrance) again, especially in their home theater! I could not have asked for anything better.”

Maeve and Michael took over the @umichsmtd Instagram account during their trip. This photo was taken of the Big Ben in London!

Maeve and Michael took over the @umichsmtd Instagram account during their trip. They’re pictured here at Big Ben on June 8, 2015, London, England.

During their weeklong stay in London, Parmelee and McEwen took class with the Alston company each day, led alternately by RADC rehearsal director and former company member Martin Lawrance (who had set the work on the U-M dancers last fall), and former Merce Cunningham dancer Jeannie Steele, and rehearsed Brisk Singing with both Alston and Lawrance. They documented the experience on SMTD’s Instagram page (#umichsmtd, #smtdstudenttakeover).

The “At Home” concerts, performed June 10-14, were well-covered by the London media, with excellent reviews published in The London Times, The Guardian, and the Financial Times, as well as a number of dance and cultural websites. Among these was Seen-and-Heard International where John O’Dwyer wrote: “Maeve McEwen and Michael Parmelee, from the University of Michigan, received several cries of ‘Bravo!’ for their assured lifts and balances in these five, gentle minutes of movement to the music of Jean-Philippe Rameau.”


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