University dance ensembles are a bit like college sports teams. They offer an array of talent on a full scale from varsity to walk-on. The performers are working their craft for love of their art. The audience experiences the joy in the purity of the intent. Nobody expects, or should expect performance. The glory is in the pursuit, in the love of the craft and in the honor of the student striving to become a master.

It is ironic that we call “professionals” performers and intellectuals who are paid in the business world when in truth the term implies a higher calling and an act of passion in its etymology. The term “amateur” is French for “someone who loves a pastime or pursuit.” In other words, amateurs are those who engage in a craft for the love of it, without regards to financial remuneration. This purity, this love of dance was on resplendent view in a recent performance by the Palm Beach Atlantic University Dance Ensemble at the Rinker Playhouse in West Palm Beach.

The PBAU Ensemble put together a fascinating program, called “Eight Easy Pieces,” that began with “The Good Samaritan” by Ivy Canapa and featured a number of interesting forays into contemporary cultural motifs.

The evening concludes with powerful pieces like Sing, Sing, Sing by Jacqueline Lopez, the Artistic Director of the company, and Darkest Before Dawn, choreographed by Demetrius Klein. Each of the numbers demonstrated a kind of unexpected ambition designed to transcend the modesty of the context inherent in a student product. The lighting and stage props were all well-conceived and helped ground the dancers in a powerfully fulfilling stage.

The performers ranged in size, shape and competency but offered the audience a genuine pleasure in their pursuit of greatness. This was a night to embrace for the love of contemporary dance as you witnessed excellent pieces. The settings and staging of the evening were exceptionally well-conceived considering what is most likely a minimal budget. Throw in the live accompaniment of an electric guitarist and a drummer and you get a lovely night of visceral dance expressiveness.