Campus News

Dance students find community and courage at UB’s summer dance program

UB Summer Dance program, dancers warming up.

Angel Mammoliti leads a warmup routine. Photo: Meredith Forrest Kulwicki


Published August 30, 2022

Melanie Aceto.
“Companies get to know them, fostering relationships that often continue after graduation, leading to jobs. ”
Melanie Aceto, associate professor
Department of Theatre and Dance

The final UB Summer Dance class ends in laughter, cheers, hugs and tears.

Something extraordinary just happened. Those in the room could sense it. Expressions, movements, attention and focus throughout the 30 students went from expected to something much more moving. Mid-afternoon, those students are breathing hard, radiating a sense they had been through something together and were better because of it.

Centering all this is Angel Mammoliti — professional dancer, mentor, UB alumna success story, communicator extraordinaire, Italian daughter, a UB charismatic success story — and one of four guest instructors from Entity Contemporary Dance Company of Los Angeles teaching classes for the UB Summer Dance Program. Mammoliti weaves through lines of students like a rock band frontman, prowling and gliding to the front mirror after gathering support.

What exactly happened from start to finish is for another time. What’s notable is how she called her students to have courage to step out of their complacency, and it worked.

If art summons the essence of feeling something inside and having the means to convey that to an audience, that’s exactly what happened.

“This past half hour I am feeling the community,” Mammoliti tells the class. “I hope you feel the vibrancy in the room. And I hope you know you are also part of the Entity community. The first thing I said — right? — in class Monday. ‘There is this weird thing about Entity. When you come into our space, you become part of our community, and you don’t leave.’ That’s this feeling right now …”

Mammoliti stops talking out of emotion — for three, four, five seconds. There is nervous laughter from her students. Mammoliti drifts to her place in front of the full-length mirror, and the class breaks into applause and cheers.

“To have two communities merging together is crazy,” she says. “And that’s all.”

Such is the theatrical finish to the Summer Dance workshop, a tradition in UB’s Department of Theatre and Dance.

Angel Mammoliti sits in a circle of dancers.

Each member of the Entity company had a mentor group of dancers. Mammoliti sits in a circle with her group. Photo: Meredith Forrest Kulwicki

“Summer intensives are opportunities for dancers to study in a style, with a dance company and/or with a choreographer more in depth than would be possible in a drop-in class at a studio,” says Melanie Aceto, associate professor and director of undergraduate dance.

“Participants can immerse themselves in a body of work while getting individual attention. Companies get to know them, fostering relationships that often continue after graduation, leading to jobs.”

UB chose Entity because of its compelling creative work, what it offers from the West Coast dance scene, and also because the company focuses on pedagogy and mentoring, says Aceto. “They are deeply invested in preparing dancers, both artistically and professionally.”

This summer’s guest relationship came through collaboration among Aceto and Entity directors Marisso Osato and Will Johnston. But the initiative and spiritual bond came from UB alumna Mammoliti. Entity dancers stayed at Mammoliti’s childhood home, uniting her colleagues with the “generous, generous, generous” heart of her Italian family, another emotional moment stopping Mammoliti in her tracks.

Angel Mammoliti gestures in a very expressive way.

Mammoliti credits her family — among other qualities — for her flare for the dramatic saying she "[embodies] that quality deeply." Photo: Meredith Forrest Kulwicki

The closest person

A double dance and psychology major in UB’s Class of 2016, Mammoliti, 28, graduated from Williamsville East. She credits her communication skills to her mother, former professional cheerleading director for the Buffalo Jills.

“She has been an overwhelming example my entire life,” Mammoliti says. “I watched her lead rooms throughout my childhood. I was constantly soaking up information from her incredible example. There was something so human about the way she communicated her work. For me to communicate in any way other than how I would talk to the closest person is out of the question.”

That “super-Italian family” — both Mammoliti’s parents are from Sicily — also passed along its “strong morals,” and “by strong morals, communication is certainly one of them. Leading with acceptance is one of them. Having a generous heart is one of them. And I think being ‘overly dramatic’ is one of them. And I embody that quality deeply,” Mammoliti says.

“The way I care about my art and train and perform can be dramatic. I’m constantly researching my boundaries. All ways. For me to get to the furthest end, to know when is enough, I have to research the drama. And sometimes I stay where I am because it feels like home,” Mammoliti says with a slight laugh.

Members of the Entity Contemporary Dance Company dance their choreography for the class.

Members of the Entity Contemporary Dance Company perform their choreography for the class. Photo: Meredith Forrest Kulwicki

‘Transformative’ years at UB

The Department of Theatre and Dance is especially proud of Mammoliti’s dossier. She trained at the Joffrey School of Ballet. Besides landing a job with Entity, she has performed with the Phoenix Ballet, and appeared on TV shows from the Latin American Music Awards to the American Country Music Awards. She has worked with Intel, Paramount Pictures and the National Parks Project.

Mammoliti emailed some thoughts to UBNow after her Buffalo residency while on a flight to Amsterdam en route to two summer music festivals as one of two backup dancers with American singer Madison Beer on her Life Support world tour (Beer praises her by name in the video). Mammoliti has worked with Jennifer Lopez, Pitbull, Ludacris, The Chicks and Viktoria Modesta. She has taught and performed in Hong Kong, Japan and Mexico.

Asked to explain her success, she says that’s a “big question.”

“It’s trusting my gut instinct and knowing whether something felt right or wrong in the moment, and then trusting that was the right answer, regardless of exterior influence,” Mammoliti says.

She cherishes her UB years, calling them “transformative,” needing them to “help me find an opinion for my movement, an opinion as an artist of what I want to say. And to help me transition to a more realistic state to take this on as a career.”

Mammoliti pauses when asked her advice to aspiring young dancers.

“Sometimes we are the only people putting limits on ourselves. And when you guide your art and career or life from an honest and genuine place, it can only lead to what is right in that moment, and that is where you continue to listen, and you listen harder.”