Overhearing dancers talk about their routines can be a bit like eavesdropping on someone speaking in a foreign language. Terms such as arabesque, plié, pirouette and jeté litter the conversation, and it is hard for a non-dancer to understand the difference between jazz and lyrical dance, if they even know that the dances exist.
The students in the jazz dance classes realized this, and it inspired them to create a unique theme for this year’s dance show: Defining Dance.
The show will feature routines in an alphabetical dictionary of dance. For example, under “H,” dancers might perform a hip hop dance to define hip hop for the audience.
“It’s going to be a chance to look at a lot of different aspects of dance and explore different styles and different dance techniques,” dance teacher April Oliver said.
Though in recent years the show has worked to showcase a wide variety of dance styles, this year the routines will be especially diverse. Dances in jazz, ballet, hip hop, lyrical, contemporary, Chinese dance and musical theater will all be performed at the annual dance show.
The school’s dance show is unique because it is comprised almost entirely of student choreography except for the finale dances at the end. Students in Jazz Dance and Advanced Jazz work in groups from two to six, and some work on solos outside of class as well. They create the steps for an entire dance and even choose their own music, lighting and costumes.
“It’s really fun to collaborate with other people and learn all their ideas, especially as you wouldn’t know some of these people are dancers when you see them at school,” junior Kelli Carlson said. “So to get to know them as a dancer and choreographer is cool.”
The skills needed to create routines on their own are learned throughout the year as part of both Jazz Dance and Advanced Jazz courses.
“First semester we do small choreography projects to build those skills, and then second semester we spend a lot of time on students learning to choreograph and experimenting with it,” Oliver said regarding both Jazz Dance and Advanced Jazz Dance classes. “I think it’s an opportunity that most students in private dance studios don’t get.”
The students choreograph dances for themselves in their small groups throughout most of third quarter and then may choose whether to perfect them and perform them in the show. All Advanced Jazz students are required to perform their small group dances, while it is optional for Jazz Dance students to include theirs. However, all students perform finale dances with their classes to finish the show. Jazz Dance classes learn routines choreographed by Oliver, while Advanced Jazz learns dances choreographed by some of the senior dancers.
Seniors Allie Barreira and Lauren Brinsfield choreographed the opening routine, and seniors Emily Small, Austin Campitelli, Casey Charlton, Angel Wilson and Casey Pao choreographed the finale. Since most of them had never choreographed for so many people before, the experience was both new and rewarding.
“One of the biggest challenges with choreography is making sure that you utilize everyone’s strengths as a dancer,” Casey Charlton said. “What makes this such a challenge is that everyone has different strengths and different weaknesses. But what I try and do with choreography is showcase everyone’s talent because we have a very diverse class this year.”