College of Visual and Performing Arts
George Mason University
George Mason University Mason
George Mason University

Graduating dance student takes on role danced by her professor

March 22, 2018   /   by Buzz McClain

Lauren Stucko in the role of "Pink Girl." Photo by Tim Coburn.

This weekend, senior dance major Lauren Stucko will perform the principal role of the Pink Girl in Lar Lubovitch’s “A Brahms Symphony” three times during George Mason University’s School of Dance Gala.

“[It’s] a very emotional and physical piece,” Stucko said.

“It’s such a dream to dance,” said her professor, School of Dance director Susan Shields. “The audience loves it. It’s got everything—love and grief and loss and every metaphysical and existential feeling you can possibly have brought into one dance.”

Shields should know. As a member of the New York City-based Lar Lubovitch Dance Company from 1988 to 1996, Shields was the Pink Girl countless times in programs performed around the world. “I danced that role a lot,” she said. “I danced it hundreds of times and every time it felt so good.”

Stucko, originally from Middletown, N.J., was first exposed to the role as a freshman when Lubovitch assistant choreographer Ginger Thatcher spent a week-long residency at Mason. This year, Shields shared with Stucko her considerable insights into the role, insights that go well beyond the physical movements to what Shields calls “the art part” of dance.

“She really isn’t just a teacher,” Stucko said. “She’s a mentor, she’s inspirational and she’s there for me and the other 70 dancers in the program. As soon as I came [to Mason] I knew I wanted to have a relationship with her because this was somebody I can trust. She’s my dream of becoming a dancer.”

And what was it like handing off the role to the student?

“That I can have every physical sensation that I had while she’s dancing, I almost don’t have words for it,” Shields said. “It’s a full circle feeling to share something that has had such an impact on my life…This is certainly one of the highlights of my 21 years at Mason.”

This weekend’s performances won’t be Stucko’s last as the Pink Girl. The Mason Dance Company has accepted an invitation to close out the Lar Lubovitch 50th-anniversary season with a performance of “A Brahms Symphony” on April 22 at the Joyce Theater in New York.

“The Martha Graham Company and the Joffrey Ballet will be there and the Mason company is closing the show,” Stucko said. “The Joyce Theater is like the Yankee Stadium of dance theaters in New York. This will be amazing.”

“I could never have dreamed of it,” said Shields.

The 2018 Mason School of Dance Gala takes place Friday and Saturday, March 23 and 24, at 8 p.m. at the Center for the Arts on the Fairfax Campus. See this site for details. The program is repeated Sunday at 4 p.m. at the Hylton Performing Arts Center’s Merchant Hall on the Science and Technology Campus in Manassas. See this site for details.