After creating an original ballet based on Mount Gallitzin Academy, Joan Van Dyke returned to Baden with a cinematographer and some of her dance students to prepare a short film based on the ballet.
The former MGA student says the ballet, which debuted in April 2016 in Punxsutawney, PA, with about 20 sisters in attendance, and the film serve as tributes to the sisters for their unwavering dedication to their students and serving as ultimate role models for women.
“My seven years at MGA were magical,” says Joan, who has enjoyed reconnecting with her former teachers, Sisters Caritas Marshall and Ruth (Venard) Sattler, through the creation of the ballet.
On a sunny day in July, Joan directed the production as her students twirled gracefully in lace gowns in front of the St. Joseph statue. The girls graciously danced the same sequence multiple times until the choreography and composition were just right. The nine-minute film portrays a young woman who is curious about the sisters and follows her through the journey of joining them.
The shaded spots of the front lawn provided the six dancers with a cool place to take a break when filming focused on Dr. Stanley Chepaitis, who plays the violin and provides musical direction throughout the story.
The group spent the afternoon filming in our chapel, a space that Joan always found captivating as an MGA student in the late 1960s. She recalls experiencing many “joyous opportunities to connect with the Lord” during Mass and credits Sister Ruth for ensuring that she knew the words to every hymn – lyrics she says she still remembers today.
“I had the distinct opportunity to experience the Sisters as my teachers and role models. They were an outstanding example of what good teachers represent, and they played a huge role in my development as a woman.”