Bathed in soft flickering candle light as Bach’s Fugue resounded from the grand Paul Fritts organ within the Holy Trinity Church in Central Park West, New York, SYREN MODERN DANCE utilized the stairs, pews, and pillars as their stage, performing the masterpiece created by Kate St. Amand. Originally titled “Wayside Sacrament”, the piece evoked the imagery of the Emerson quote “Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything that is beautiful, for beauty is God’s handwriting-a wayside sacrament”
The idea for the artistic performance of “Wayside Sacrament” stemmed from a colloquium at Yale University, when artists of every medium converged onto the campus in New Haven, Connecticut. During this event, Kate St. Amand considered the idea of beauty in the modern age. She felt technology often creates instant gratification instead of genuine interaction, and she discovered Emerson’s quote was especially poignant and profound. After discussing her concept with organist Rick Erickson, for four months in residency at Holy Trinity she molded and shaped the work, renaming the performance to suit the location and in honor of Bach. Working with designer, Naomi Luppescu, the cutouts within the costume matched the architecture of the church. Donald Meineke played harpsichord and Rick Erickson played the organ. Performed for two weekends, St. Amand’s vision was realized, ensuring that the dance, the music, the location and the audience were all integral threads woven together to create the artistic garment of beauty.
It would have been easy to tell at an early age that Kate St. Amand was destined to choreograph dance. Following in the footsteps of her sister, young Kate took dancing lessons near her home at age 3. As she matured, the passion for dance grew and through a summer program at the Nutmeg Ballet Conservatory, she became connected to a larger world where students were prepared to dance professionally. Joining the Nutmeg community at age 12, she received training from Sharon Dante, Joan Kunsch and Eleanor D’Antuono in the studios of 21 Water Street in Torrington. Kate was also taught modern dance by Brian Simerson, choreographer for the Nutmeg and founder of his own dance company Simerson and Co. In Simerson, she found a mentor. Kate would practice diligently on every instruction she received from the Nutmeg, but then in her own time she would search for an open studio and create her own pieces there. She was encouraged by the Nutmeg team to create and perform those pieces, a remarkable opportunity for a talented 15 year old.
Graduating in 1998, Kate St. Amand engaged in the New York dance world where she found her need to create her own choreography had only grown. Joining forces with her friend and fellow dancer/choreographer Lynn Peterson, SYREN MODERN DANCE was born. While growing the dance company and performing at many venues, St. Amand would always return to the Nutmeg to teach the next generation of dancers, sharing her knowledge and choreography, fulfilling the motto “Once a Nutmegger, Always a Nutmegger”.
This year St. Amand returned to the Nutmeg once more to create a new work during the summer program for the summer dance festival. Inspired by her young students’ desire to work together, St. Amand created a piece focused on teamwork and partnership. She called the dance KUNE which is Esperanto for the word “TOGETHER”. In the final performance of the summer in the Nutmeg Premiere Studio, her students will perform a work entitled GREEN(E). ” It is inspired by a friend who recently lost her life,” says St. Amand. “Witnessing the process of her family going through tremendous, incomprehensible loss overwhelmed me, and this was a way to both help me process and honor her life.”
Looking to the future, there may be venues in Connecticut that would be a perfect fit for St. Amand’s “Bach’s Fugue/Wayside Sacrament” and the nutmeg state would benefit from experiencing this unique artistic experience. With support from the community, the creative vision of Kate St. Amand will continue to grow, prosper, and delight an ever expanding audience that receives the extraordinary opportunity to see the beauty, that wayside sacrament, in artistic performance. The future for SYREN MODERN DANCE is as bright and bold as its co-founder, the artistic visionary, Kate St. Amand.