Allegheny News and Events

Senior Samantha Bretz Sets Her Sights on Becoming Miss Pennsylvania

Allegheny College senior Samantha Bretz will compete for the title of Miss Pennsylvania in June, now that she already carries the banner of Miss Crawford County.

Allegheny senior Samantha Bretz from Adrian, Michigan, won the title of Miss Crawford County. Photo Credit: Julie Haemer-Scott/Cambridge Springs

Bretz was crowned Miss Crawford County 2018 in February, competing against eight other contestants in Conneaut Lake. She won the interview, talent and evening gown awards as well as the first-place scholarship. Bretz performed a ballet routine to the Cupid Variation “Act III: Amour” from Don Quixote, a routine known for requiring impeccable balance and lightness.

“In the interview room, the judges asked me ‘Why are you here today?,’ Bretz recalls from her February pageant competition. “I replied ‘Crawford County is the reason.’ Out of all the places in the world I’ve traveled to, this is the place where I discovered a passion for experiential education. Now I’ve made it my mission to bring creativity, collaboration, and reflection to classrooms across my communities. I work toward a future where students can develop a sense of purpose in their education and can learn by play rather than by rote.

“For me, it’s all about personal development,” says Bretz, who is from Adrian, Michigan. “Each category of the competition challenges you to express your best self, and that comes from the preparation and practice. Titleholders should be able to eloquently communicate their thoughts and ideas, exude passion for their platforms, exhibit poise and confidence, think on their feet in stressful situations, and work toward presenting their talent beautifully.

“Once crowned, a titleholder has a “year of service” promoting her personal platform by advocating and leading in her community. I started competing as a creative means to fund my education. The Miss America Organization is the leading scholarship provider for women in the U.S., and I have been fortunate to receive multiple scholarships toward my Allegheny education.”

On campus, Bretz is an economics major and minoring in both French and dance and movement studies. She has been involved for her four years with the Orchesis Dance Company, serving as both choreographer and president, and has been a member of Delta Delta Delta, the Jazz and Dance Ensemble (JaDE), the Allegheny College choirs, Lambda Sigma sophomore honor society, the Finance and Facilities Committee, and Omicron Delta Epsilon. She volunteers with Civic Engagement, is employed as a Center for Business and Economics fellow, and interns for the Gifted/Talented middle school enrichment program.

Last year, Bretz competed in a pageant in Michigan and won the title of Miss River Raisin Festival. For Bretz, pageants have helped her to become the best version of herself — able to speak confidently, keep well-informed, and further her passion for progressive education methods.

“I would not be the successful individual I am today without the Miss America Organization,” says Bretz. “For my very first pageant interview, I was shaking in my heels as the judges asked controversial questions about current topics. By staying informed and engaging in civil discourse with my peers, I became so much more self-assured in expressing myself, and now I can confidently give an opinion on any topic in front of any audience.”

Bretz has accepted a position with Boston Scientific as a finance leadership development program associate immediately following her graduation in May. Her experience at Allegheny, as well as the rigorous practice of interviewing through the Miss America Organization, has helped her to become an ideal candidate for the position, she says.

“Even after I stop competing, I will always have this passion for education and will continue to seek ways to change the world,” she says. “It’s not just a crown in a beauty contest, but a platform to create meaningful change, and that’s what I love about Miss America. … Who knows what new and exciting opportunities await? Next stop, Miss Pennsylvania!”


Community Ballroom Dance Classes to Begin Jan. 15

Allegheny College’s Dance and Movement Studies Program will offer community ballroom lessons beginning Monday, Jan. 15. Classes will be taught by Dance and Movement Studies faculty Betsy Sumerfield and will be held in the Montgomery Performance Space on Mondays from 6:45 to 8 p.m.

The cost is $60 per person or $100 per couple for a total of 10 lessons. Participants should wear either socks or ballroom shoes. For more information, please call (814) 332-2813.

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Allegheny Dance and Movement Studies Program to Hold Its Annual Holiday Concert

Allegheny College’s Dance and Movement Studies Program presents its annual holiday concert, Cookies and Milk, for families and children on Sunday, December 3. The concert has been a tradition on campus for almost 20 years. Performances are at 2 and 4 p.m. in the Montgomery Performance Space. Refreshments will be served at 3 p.m. in the Campus Center lobby.

Allegheny students from Dance and Movement Studies classes, the Jazz Dance Ensemble, and community members as well, will perform routines of various styles and topics. Some of the routines will be interactive, directed to include children in the audience.

Many people from the Meadville community as well as Allegheny students help to make the show a joyful event. This is the fifth year that local bakers from Creating Landscapes for Families will be providing the cookies served at 3 p.m. in the Campus Center lobby.

In keeping with the seasonal spirit of giving, there will be a collection box for Toys for Tots at the concert. Audience members are welcome to contribute new, unwrapped toys to be gifted to a child who might otherwise not receive holiday presents.

The concert is free and open to the public. Call the Dance and Movement Studies office (814) 332-2813 to make a reservation.

Photo by Casey Freed


Orchesis: A Peek Behind the Curtain

Orchesis Dance Company has been performing its annual shows for years, and the group has grown from a small company into more than 100 members per year. The production is now an autumn tradition on the Allegheny campus, one of the most attended events each year. But what the audience doesn’t see is the months of work leading up to the two-hour final product.

It is one of the biggest productions on campus–this year it was staged on Nov. 8-11–and it begins a full year before the actual performances, on the nights of the previous year’s recital. Dancers arrive for the shows hours early, partly to get in costume and stage makeup, partly to stretch, and partly to vote on the next year’s board members. On the final night of performances, the last of the board positions are announced, and next year’s show is set in motion. (Choreographers pictured below)

The show begins to form in the spring, when members who have been part of the company for at least one year can propose choreography for a dance, with the elected board choosing which ones to include in the next year’s show.

In the fall, the audition process begins on a Saturday two weeks into the new academic year, a two-day process where every dancer who auditions is placed into at least one piece. By the following Monday, rehearsals begin and the dances start to develop. (Picture from auditions below)

Kalena Grimes ’19 has been in Orchesis for three years, and this was her second year as both the Historian board member as well as a choreographer. “As a board member, I feel as if I am able to give something back to the company after all that it has given me. I am able to make a difference in the company and help it grow each year to become more meaningful to all of the company members. Being a board member doesn’t allow me to brag or be boastful, but instead it allows for others to expect more from me. That alone motivates me to build the company to be as strong as possible.”

The choreographers have eight practices–one per week–to construct their pieces and get them show-ready. “You have to find a balance between the time it takes teaching choreography and the time you need to clean the dance, and depending on how long your piece is it can feel like a rush to the finish line,” says choreographer Gavi Winer ’18. (Picture from the final dress rehearsal below)

Every aspect of the show is student-designed–the choreographers pick out costumes, student tech members run the sound and lights, and the Orchesis board manages every aspect of the promotion and logistics of the show–creating posters, ordering costumes, handling news releases, scheduling the various dress rehearsals. The final show is entirely a group effort, and it shows in the pride that every member feels in presenting their work to the audience.

The week leading up to the shows is when costumes are worn, stage makeup is layered on, and the lighting cues are set, and suddenly the show feels real. Anticipation builds until the first show night–Wednesday, the Community Show, where professors, Allegheny staff, and the Meadville community get the first look at the production. (Below is the group photo from Carissa Lange’s ’80s Mashup piece)

“When I see my dance on stage I feel proud and accomplished,” says Grimes. “My dancers have brought my vision to life the past two years and I couldn’t have wished for a better outcomes. The dancers are very dedicated so the costumes and lighting simply enhance their incredible talents. Orchesis is an outlet for me, one that allows for me to interact with a rather large group of incredibly talented humans. I am forever grateful for each and every person that orchesis has given me. I am thankful for each rehearsal, performance and every other experience I have had because of Orchesis. It is so much more than a dance company to me, it is an additional 90 or more people that I consider to be family.”

Emma Wasko is a first-year student, and says her favorite part of the process was getting to meet and bond with people sharing the same love of dance. “As a freshmen, you’re coming into life at college knowing no one and scared out of your mind, so it’s nice to meet other people who you can actually get along with,” she says. “When I auditioned, as soon as I walked into the auditorium, everyone was SO nice, optimistic, and welcoming. Auditions went well, and I ended up making it into three pieces! It was also a great opportunity to meet upperclassmen, who gave great advice about Allegheny and about life, honestly.” (Pictured below is Emma Wasko in Toni Donofrio’s piece “Lay Me Down”)

Performance Photos by Ed Mailliard; Rehearsal Photos by Laura Allston. Click on photos in the performance gallery above to enlarge them.


Orchesis Dance Company Stages Annual Recital

The Orchesis Dance Company will hold its annual dance recital with four shows Nov. 8-11 in Allegheny College’s Shafer Auditorium. The Nov. 8 performance at 7 p.m. is the designated Community Premier Show for members of the Meadville community and Allegheny faculty and staff. The shows on Nov. 9-11 start at 8 p.m. All shows are free and open to the public.

The production is entirely student-run, from choreography to stage setup, and has been one of the most attended events on campus. Students begin with choreography proposals in the spring of the previous year, and then in the fall hold open auditions for each piece. Every student who auditions is guaranteed one dance, to make the organization as inclusive as possible. Once each student has been cast, the choreographers have eight weeks of rehearsals to construct their pieces and get them performance-ready.
This is the first year the company is also raising money for a philanthropy. Donations will be given to Creating Landscapes, where it will fund a scholarship for children to enroll in the Summer Landscapes program, a three-week, arts-infused learning experience with dance, music, creative writing, math, science, languages, and visual arts. Orchesis members “dormstormed” across campus for spare-change donations, and raised $364 to support the scholarship.

Samantha Bretz, this year’s president of Orchesis, “fell in love with the opportunity to be in a completely student-run dance organization, where creativity could flow, and confidence could be built.”

“Now, going from freshman year as a dancer, sophomore year as a choreographer, junior year as a board member, and senior year as president, I’ve seen the evolution that it’s gone through, but also what has remained constant – for me, that’s the inclusivity,” Bretz said. “Anyone who wants to dance, whether you have had training or have not, you have the chance to be on stage to present in front of your peers, to express creativity, and build your character as a performer or a collaborator. Orchesis to me has taught me how to be a team player and a team leader.”


Orchesis Dance Company Annual Recital

The Orchesis Dance Company will hold its annual dance recital with four shows Nov. 8-11 in Allegheny College’s Shafer Auditorium. The Nov. 8 performance at 7 p.m. is the designated Community Premier Show for members of the Meadville community and Allegheny faculty and staff. The shows on Nov. 9-11 start at 8 p.m. All shows are free and open to the public.

The production is entirely student-run, from choreography to stage setup, and has been one of the most attended events on campus.


Community Ballroom Dance Classes to Begin

Allegheny College’s Dance and Movement Studies program will offer community ballroom dance lessons beginning Monday, Aug. 28.
Classes will be taught by Dance and Movement Studies faculty Betsy Sumerfield and will be held in the Montgomery Performance Space on Mondays. Class for beginners will run from 6:45 to 8 p.m.; class for experienced dancers will run from 7:45 to 9 p.m. The cost is $60 per person or $100 per couple for a total of 10 lessons. Participants should wear either socks or ballroom shoes. For more information, please call (814) 332-2813.


Allegheny to Host Dance Minors’ Concert

The Dance and Movement Studies Program will hold its annual concert on April 28 at 7 p.m. to showcase pieces directed by various dance-minor students. The concert will be held in the Montgomery Performance Space, and is free and open to the public.

The concert is titled “You. Me. Us.,” a play on the phrase “me, myself, and I,” to address the theme of relationships – whether familial, romantic, or otherwise. Each piece is designed and choreographed independently by dance minors, so a variety of styles and perspectives are included in the show. The concert allows students the freedom to explore the styles and techniques that draw them, and each year’s production has a different texture to it depending on who is involved and what is brought to the floor.

Senior Abby Walters, the liaison for the show, said that dance in general is closely related to the Year of Mindfulness, Allegheny’s campus-wide theme for 2016-17.
“Defining dance as a movement exercise performed with intention, awareness, and presence in oneself and the body, I’d say that all of the performances will relate to the Year of Mindfulness and to living a life of purpose rather than mere existence,” Walters said.
Though Walters is the designated liaison, the concert itself is a collaborative effort between all of the dance minors, and other non-minors joining in.
More information about the Dance and Movement Studies Program can be found at


Allegheny College Presents Annual Spring Dance Concert

The Allegheny College Dance & Movement Studies Program will present its annual Spring Dance Concert in the Montgomery Performance Space at 7:30 p.m. April 6-8, Thursday to Saturday. The concert is free and open to the public, but reservations are recommended.
This year’s concert showcases students in several styles of dance, including ballet, ballroom, and modern.  Many of the dances will feature live music provided by local musicians, including John Hyatt and members of the college faculty band Credit/No Credit.

The program will open with dancers demonstrating the movement development of humans from crawling to standing and eventually imagining the motion of the stars. Gretchen Myers’ Upper Level Ballet students will dance “Excerpts from ‘Don Quixote’ Dream Sequence.”  Eleanor Weisman, director of the Dance and Movement Studies Program, has re-created a water dance, last performed in 2012 for her students in the Landscapes of the Body course.  Students in Betsy Sumerfield’s Ballroom III course will close the concert with a new piece that showcases their skills in other dance forms as well as ballroom.
Senior Rayna Pelisari will perform a solo inspired by Florence Reese’s 1931 song “Which Side Are You On?” Weisman also is working with students on “Mindless Modern World,” a piece that spoofs contemporary work culture using the idiom of ballet.  Her final offering is a collaboration devised with students, “Ignite the Revolution,” based on social-justice causes that motivate community action.  Finally, James Reedy will present a new dance, “Endangered Species” inspired by his reaction to current world events.
Reservations can be made through the Dance and Movement Studies office by calling (814) 332-2813.