Dance Students Find Community and Courage at UB’s Summer Dance Program – UBNow: News and Views for UB Faculty and Staff

Campus news

Angel Mammoliti leads a warm-up routine. Photo: Meredith Forrest Kulwicki


Posted August 30, 2022

Melanie Aceto.

UB’s latest summer dance class ends with laughter, cheers, hugs and tears.

Something extraordinary has just happened. Those in the room could smell it. The expressions, movements, attention and concentration of the 30 students went from expected to something much more moving. By mid-afternoon, these students are breathing hard, radiating the feeling that they’ve been through something together and improved because of it.

At the center of it all, Angel Mammoliti – professional dancer, mentor, UB alumna success story, communicator extraordinaire, Italian girl, charismatic UB success story – and one of four guest instructors from the Entity Contemporary Dance Company in Los Angeles teaching classes for the UB Summer Dance Program. Mammoliti weaves through the rows of students like a frontman of a rock band, prowling and sliding towards the front mirror after gathering support.

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

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

“This last half hour, I feel the community,” Mammoliti told the class. “I hope you feel the dynamism in the room. And I hope you know you’re part of the Entity community, too. The first thing I said — right? — in class on Monday. ‘There’s this weird thing about Entity. When you walk into our space, you’re part of our community and you don’t Leave.’ It’s that feeling right now…”

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

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

Such is the theatrical end of the Summer Dance Workshop, a tradition of the UB Department of Theater 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 a style, with a dance company and/or with a choreographer in greater depth than would be possible in a walk-in class in a studio,” explains Melanie Aceto, associate professor and undergraduate dance director.

“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 brings to the West Coast dance scene, and also because the company’s focus is on pedagogy and mentorship, Aceto says. “They are deeply invested in preparing dancers, both artistically and professionally.”

This summer’s guest relationship was born out of the collaboration between Aceto and Entity directors Marisso Osato and Will Johnston. But the initiative and spiritual connection came from UB alumnus Mammoliti. The Entity dancers stayed at Mammoliti’s childhood home, uniting her colleagues with the “generous, generous, generous” hearts of her Italian family, another emotional moment stopping Mammoliti in its tracks.

Angel Mammoliti makes very expressive gestures.

Mammoliti credits her family – among other qualities – with her flame for the dramatic saying that she “[embodies] deeply this quality. Photo: Meredith Forrest Kulwicki

The closest person

Mammoliti, 28, a graduate of Williamsville East. She credits her communication skills to her mother, a former professional cheerleader for the Buffalo Jills.

“She’s been an overwhelming example my whole life,” Mammoliti says. “I saw her directing plays throughout my childhood. I was constantly absorbing information from his incredible example. There was something so human about the way she communicated her work. For me, it is out of the question to communicate in any way other than the way I would talk to the closest person.

This “super-Italian family” – both of Mammoliti’s parents are from Sicily – also passed on their “strong morals” and “through strong morals, communication is definitely part of it. Leading with acceptance is part of it. Having a heart generous is part of that. And I think being ‘overdramatic’ is part of that. And I deeply embody that quality,” Mammoliti says.

“The way I care about my art, my training and my performance can be dramatic. I am constantly looking for my limits. All paths. For me to go all the way, to know when enough is enough, I have to look for drama. And sometimes I stay where I am because it feels like home,” Mammoliti says with a light 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 Theater and Dance is particularly proud of Mammoliti’s record. She trained at the Joffrey School of Ballet. In addition to landing a job at Entity, she performed with the Phoenix Ballet and appeared on TV shows ranging 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 residency in Buffalo on a flight to Amsterdam en route to two summer music festivals as one of two backup dancers with American singer Madison Beer during 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.

When asked to explain her success, she says it’s a “big question”.

“It’s trusting my instincts and knowing if something felt right or wrong at the time, and then believing it was the right answer, regardless of outside influence,” says Mammoliti.

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

Mammoliti stops when asked for advice from budding young dancers.

“Sometimes we are the only ones who put limits on ourselves. And when you guide your art and your career or your life from a place of honesty and authenticity, it can only lead to what’s right in that moment, and that’s where you continue to listen, and you listen louder.