By Steve Sucato
Few of us can point to one event that changed the direction of our lives. For dancer/choreographer Melanie Aceto attending a performance by acclaimed modern dance company Parsons Dance while an undergraduate at the State University of New York at Geneseo proved the difference in her pursuing a career in dance over one in social work.
“Seeing Parsons made me realize I had never really seen concert dance before,” says Aceto. “I hadn’t seen anything other than dance recitals until then but I knew afterwards that I wanted to do that.”
Aceto says up until then she was under the misconception that you had to be a ballet dancer to dance professionally in a company. Fortunately for Aceto and those whose lives she has touched as a performer, choreographer and dance teacher over the years, dance was the career path she chose.
Aceto and her Buffalo-based Melanie Aceto Contemporary Dance will present a program of her works entitled Made of Motion: A Concert of Contemporary Dance at Buffalo’s Albright-Knox Art Gallery on Friday, April 4 as part of the M&T First Fridays @ The Gallery series.
The 40-year-old Aceto grew up in Rochester, NY and studied dance at a local studio before taking dance as a minor at Geneseo. She then continued her training at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts earning a master’s degree in dance. And after performing in several NYC-based troupes including Monica Bill Barnes & Company and Ellis Wood Dance, she relocated to Buffalo where she is currently an associate professor in the department of Theatre and Dance at University at Buffalo, The State University of New York. In addition to her work with her company Melanie Aceto Contemporary Dance, in which her works have been performed both nationally and internationally including at the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, New York’s D.U.M.B.O Dance Festival and in Toronto, Guatemala and Germany, Aceto has also performed with Buffalo troupes Buffalo Contemporary Dance, Pick of the Crop Dance and Nimbus Dance.
For the hourlong Made of Motion: A Concert of Contemporary Dance, Aceto and company will present six works including “Vent,” a new solo choreographed and performed by Aceto.
The program will open with Aceto’s 2009 solo “Bide,” set to composer Mark Olivieri’s Suite for Jules (2007) and performed live by cellist Jonathan Golove and violinist Yuki Lee Numata Resnick. Aceto describes the work as being a direct response to Olivieri’s dramatic music. In a video clip of the work I viewed on Aceto’s website, she used a chair as pseudo partner to cleverly climb on, over, and around.
Next, Aceto joins forces with Buffalo-native Mary Sullivan in a yet-to-be-titled duet that explores alternating partnering lifts.
The aforementioned “Vent” follows along with the 2013 duet “In To Selves,” featuring jazz vocalist Turkish Esin Gunduz of the group resAUnance, that inspired “Vent” and Aceto’s use of breathing sounds that accompany the dance.
Rounding out the program will be another yet-to-be-titled work, a gesture-inspired improvisational dance for seven veteran Buffalo area performers including Beth Elkins, Nancy Hughes and ALT Theatre’s Amy Taravella, and Aceto’s delightfully spunky solo “Dancer Mad” (2004), danced to Brahms’ Hungarian Dance No. 5.
Unfortunately, due to technical limitations, Aceto’s perhaps most imaginative and engaging work “Liaison” (2013) was not able to be performed. You can see a video of the work here.
Melanie Aceto Contemporary Dance will perform Made of Motion: A Concert of Contemporary Dance, 8 p.m., Friday, April 4; Albright-Knox Art Gallery, 1285 Elmwood Ave., Buffalo, NY; Free for gallery members, $5 for non-members (Parking $3). Visit www.albrightknox.org for details.