Posts Tagged ‘Ellen Rosa’

NYC Ballet Principal Jock Soto Visits Idyllwild

Monday, May 7th, 2012

Jock Soto in Idyllwild

By Marcia E. Gawecki

More than 100 featured ballet roles were written for him.

For 25 years, Jock Soto was the principal ballet dancer for the New York City Ballet, and left when he turned 40 years old in 2005. Since then, he wrote a book about his dancing career (because Random House asked him to), including his mother’s strong influence.

She was the first female Navajo hoop dancer.

“She used hoops to mimic the movements of eagles and horses,” Jock said. ”

Random House asked Jock to write his memoir soon after his mother’s death.

“At first, I didn’t want to do it,” Jock recalled. “But then I realized it would be a nice tribute to her. But I also wanted ballet dancers to know that there’s life after dancing.”

Since he wrote the book, Jock has graduated from culinary school with a business degree. Jock still teaches ballet at the School of American Ballet (SAB) in New York where he learned how to dance professionally, but he is at Idyllwild Arts this week teaching Master Classes.

He reconnected with Jonathan Sharp, a dance instructor at Idyllwild Arts, through Facebook, and is now on tour teaching other students about ballet. As a promise to his mother, he went to Canada to teach indiginous students about ballet.

“They know modern, but surprisingly not ballet at all,” he said.

At Idyllwild Arts, however, the 35 or so dancers who live at the boarding school know about ballet. Many of them have been dancing since age 5, like he did. But he went to New York at age 13 to dance at the American School of Ballet (but there were no dorms back then), and ended up living in an apartment with eight other students.

“My parents didn’t want to live in New York, so I stayed and went to school there,” Jock explained. “Our apartment was in a nice area about three blocks from the school (SAB). I had just left Arizona and was pretty naive.”

Did bad things happen to him in New York? Many of them are outlined in his book, “Every Step You Take,” now available for $18.99 new (or $5 used) on Amazon.

Well, he gave up his high school academic studies, but not his dancing classes, and joined the New York City Ballet at age 16. By age 21, he was their principal dancer, the youngest in their history.

On the cover of his book, “Every Step of the Way,” it shows Jock leaping through the air. He was only 16 when the photo was taken. He looks like an angel in flight.

Jock said he became successful as a ballet dancer because he was quick.

“You had to learn about 100 different dances in a year,” Jock explained. “So if you could learn them quickly, people wanted to work with you.”

Over the years, Jock worked with many choreographers, including George Balanchine, who personally asked him to join the New York City Ballet. He said that he toured the world, and never wanted to leave for any other company.

Besides his memoir, Jock wrote a cookbook with Heather Watts, and PBS produced a documentary in 2008 called, “Water Flowing Together,” that takes you from his roots on the Arizona reservation to principal dancer at the New York City Ballet. Peter Martens said Jock had a “natural grace,” a remarkable career who left a terrific impact on the world of dance.

“I think they’re going to show the documentary at Idyllwild Arts this week,” Jock said.

You can view an excerpt of Jock’s video online at www.pbs.org.

As he drove up from Palm Springs to Idyllwild, Jock said that the area reminded him of Taos, New Mexico, where he has a summer home that he rarely gets to visit.

“This is just beautiful,” Jock said as looked down at the creek and up at the 100-foot pines. “I think I’m going to like staying here.”

Copyright 2012 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

Teen Dancers Try Out for Royal Caribbean Cruise

Thursday, April 19th, 2012

(from L) Maddy and Cheyenne

By Marcia E. Gawecki

Go directly to college, or take six months off and dance on a cruise ship?

That was the happy dilemma for Maddy and Cheyenne, two Idyllwild Arts dance students, on Tuesday, April 17, as they headed for their audition at the Debbie Reynolds Dance Studio in Hollywood.

Maddy, who got accepted into five colleges, but not her top choices, was exploring cruise ship options, and Royal Caribbean sounded promising.

“On a cruise ship, you get to dance and travel the world,” Maddy said.

It would be a six-month commitment if she made the cut.

“I would have to defer my college enrollment, but then I could earn almost a year’s tuition,” she said.

During her time at Idyllwild Arts, Maddy was a straight A student who didn’t have much time for socializing.

“Every Saturday night, I was home studying,” she said. “Now I just want to have some fun and earn a little money so I don’t have to take out so many student loans.”

Maddy said that Royal Caribbean would pay anywhere from $1,000 to $4,000 per month, depending on your contract. Dancers would be expected to work every day, however, all living expenses would be paid, including room & board, meals and insurance. And for the 8-week training session in Florida, Royal Caribbean would pay for the airfare, food and hotel fees.

“They would also pay for your costumes, makeup and everything,” Maddy added.

For their 10 a.m. audition, Maddy and Cheyenne wore heavy eye makeup and black dance leotards. Instead of their normal tight bun, they let their hair down.

“Whatever you do, don’t stand in the back,” advised Cheyenne, who has entered beauty pageants. “They will never see you.”

The audition was held at the Debbie Reynolds Dance Studio in N. Hollywood

On the web site, Royal Caribbean said that there could be as many as 300 girls at the audition. As it turned out, there was only about 100.

“That kind of competition kind of freaks me out,” Maddy said.

Other audition criteria included height and weight requirements. Dancers had to be a size 0 to 6, and be 5 foot to 5 foot six inches tall, and have 7 years of dance experience.

The two dancers had met all of the requirements, but Cheyenne didn’t think that the length of experience mattered all that much.

“At the end of the day, all they want to see is if you can dance,” she said.

The 100 dancers were cut to 30, and then to 10. Maddy made it to the second round, but then blanked out for a few seconds.

“I don’t know what happened,” Maddy recalled “I knew all the jazz steps, but I just froze. And when I stopped, the girl behind me stopped too.”

Cheyenne knew where she messed up too, but was glad for the overall experience. She noticed after the cut, there was a certain uniform look to the remaining girls.

“All the really short and tall girls were cut right away,” Cheyenne said. “And all the medium-sized girls with big boobs remained.”

She also noticed that she and Maddy were the youngest of the lot. There were mostly college girls, with some 30-year-olds mixed in.

Maddy as Cinderella

“There was one girl who had already been a dancer on a cruise ship, but she left early because her sister died,” Cheyenne said. “They didn’t let her back in because she broke her commitment. That was her sister! It seemed kind of harsh.”

Even though the instructor at the Debbie Reynolds Dance Studio announced they were looking for clean dance techniques, Cheyenne noticed that the ones who threw their legs up over their heads made the cut.

“They weren’t showing clean technique,” Cheyenne quipped. “They were just showing off!”

Cheyenne also met a girl who attended a school that prepped her for cruise ship dance auditions, and that girl made the cut.

Cheyenne said that probably won’t attend any more cruise ship tryouts, but Maddy was encouraged to try another cruise line.

“I heard that Carnival is looking for dancers,” Maddy said. “I felt good about this audition, and believe that I could make the cut next time.”

Maddy hasn’t ruled out college in the fall, but it all depends upon scholarships, and if she could gather enough flight money to visit a couple of the east coast schools. She feels like she needs to gain a better perspective before the May 1 deadline.

Neither Maddy nor Cheyenne knew about Debbie Reynolds, the actress and singer, who owned the dance studio where the audition was held.

“I know that she’s a good choreographer,” Cheyenne said. “I didn’t know that she was also an actress.”

Debbie Reynolds established her dance studio in 1979 so that dancers could have a comfortable place to rehearse. All of Debbie Reynolds’ movies included some type of dance. She is best known for “Singing in the Rain,” (1952) with Fred Astaire.

“‘Singing in the Rain’ and childbirth were the two hardest things I’ve ever had to do in my life,” Debbie Reynolds is credited for saying.

Her children are actress Carrie Fisher (Star Wars, When Harry Met Sally) and TV commercials director, Todd Fisher. Debbie gave up acting (because she didn’t want to take her clothes off), yet has kept her love of dance. The Debbie Reynolds Dance Studio specializes in hip hop, jazz, and tap.

Copyright 2012 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

Spring Dance Features Interesting Mix

Sunday, March 18th, 2012

Cats consult with Cinderella about going to the ball

By Marcia E. Gawecki

The Idyllwild Arts Spring Dance Concert, held for three days this week, featured a nice mix of ballet, modern and jazz.

Standout pieces included Cinderella, and contemporary ballet and hip-hop pieces from two guest choreographers.

However, the final piece, featuring video and poetry from the seniors, was an emotional good-bye.

The show opened with a grand production of ‘Cinderella,’ with their own twists. After being told that she cannot go to the ball, Cinderella (Madison) consults with cats (instead of mice). But its the seasonal fairies who convince her to go. Big show stealers were male dancers Cemiyon and Gilbert, as the wicked stepsisters, with stepmother Gerard, all dressed in drag.

(from L) Cinderella (Madison) celebrates with Lani (fair godmother) and the fairies

The fairy godmother (Lani) and spring/summer/winter/fall fairies (Gina, Giovanna, Cheyenne and Adrianna) were all played beautifully by senior dancers.

The fairies’ ballet costumes were not the traditional starched variety, but colorful and flowing, making one yearn for spring. (Ten inches of snow arrived the day after the show’s end).

Will Dingledein, a 2011 dance grad, was in attendance for all three shows. He laughed his head off when Gerard, as stepmother, scolded Prince Charming (Mauricio).

“He stole the show!” Will said during the first intermission.

“Le Papillon,” a modern ballet by guest choreographer, Josie Walsh, was funded by a grant from the AEL Foundation. Given the title, one expected to see butterflies, but the opening showed dancers rolling other dancers wrapped in cocoon-like materials.

From 'Pas de Quoi'

The piece, which also featured the original music by Josie’s husband, Paul Rivera, Jr., featured sound effects like echoes, which piqued your interest.

'Lotus' was a hip-hop piece by guest choreographer Brandon Aiken

The costumes, sheer peach long dresses, were elegant, yet functional. In the end, dancers wrapped themselves in the same material as capes that were stepped on by other dancers.

It was artfully choreographed, and a treat to watch its transformation.

‘Lotus,’ by guest choreographer Brandon Aiken, told a different story. Borrowing from “West Side Story,” the hip-hop piece featured a dance-off contest between two rival dance gangs. Torn between the two were star-crossed lovers, played by Allison and Gilbert.

Paris, who was adamantly opposed to the pair, was perfectly theatrical. Hip-hop music by Chris Brown, Lil Jon, young Jeezy and Wale kept the crowd enthralled.

Senior dancers Giovanna and Mauricio

‘A Leaving,’ the last piece, featured an emotional good-bye from seniors, Adrianna, Cheyenne, Natalia, Lani, Mauricio, Gina, Giovanna, Delaney, Allison, Madison, Sorrelle and Gerard. Each took their turns at the microphone, citing poetry and memories over the past four years.

“I am a bird, high up in these trees,” Cheyenne said. “I am home.”

“We stuck our heads in the earth,” Delaney said in a voice over during her dance solo.

“Lizard dust fills my mouth,” Madison added. “Making it hard to say good-bye.”

Towards the end, a full-screened black-and-white video depicted the dance seniors walking away in the snow. Voice-overs talked about first loves, heartache, gratitude and self-actualization.

It was also peppered with humor.

Spring dance featured a nice mix of dance styles

“Even after four years, people still don’t know if I’m Gina or Giovanna,” Gina quipped.

At the final bow, the audience was on its feet, clapping, cheering and shedding some tears.

Wednesday night’s concert was featured on U Stream on the academy’s web site, www.idyllwildarts.org.

Angela, the school’s receptionist, was glad to be able to watch the dance concert from the comfort of her own home.

 

Copyright 2012 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

Andy leaps in the air over his fellow dancers

 

 

Cemiyon in 'Pas de Quoi'

 

Spring Dance Concert Opens Tonight

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

Spring Dance Concert will feature a guest ballet choreographer. 2011 photo courtesy Idyllwild Arts.

By Marcia E. Gawecki

Idyllwild Arts’ Spring Dance Concert will showcase the choreographic talents of two guest artists, including hip hop and ballet.

The two-hour show opens tonight (Wednesday) and runs through Friday. Expect the dance students to be enthusiastic, not just because they love their craft, but because it’s only days before Spring Break.

Brandon was a recent guest artist in the Dance Department and choreographed the hip-hop piece.

“I”m not sure who Brandon was a backup dancer for,” said Gina, a senior. “Maybe Madonna, but he’s definitely a great dancer and choreographer.”

Becca, who knows about hip hop (but isn’t in Brandon’s piece), said, “It’s like Brandon recreated a club ‘dance off.”

Skye, a dancer from Santa Barbara, will be in four pieces, including the hip-hop, modern, jazz and ballet.

Cheyenne strikes a pose for the show poster

“Most of the dancers are in three or four pieces,” Skye said. “It’s going to be a long show, but it moves really fast.”

Gilbert, one of six male dancers at Idyllwild Arts, bought pantyhose in town for the Cinderella ballet piece. They were nude, Queen-sized with reinforced toes.

“I don’t want to spoil anything, but some of the male dancers will be dressed as women for the Cinderella piece,” Gilbert said. “It’s really funny. We’re going to be wearing wigs and full makeup.”

At 13 years old, Gilbert is the youngest student at Idyllwild Arts.

“You hae to come see the hip hop piece and the ballet piece,” said Gina. “It was really wonderful working with professionals.”

Both guest artists taught Master Classes and worked closely with the dance students with their choreographed pieces.

The Spring Dance Concerts starts tonight, Wednesday, March 14, at 7:30 p.m. in the IAF Theatre at Bowman. Like all events at Idyllwild Arts, it’s free and open to the public. But you might want to get there early to get a good seat. The show continues Thursday and Friday nights at 7:30 p.m.

Copyright 2012 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

 

Fall Dance Concert Opens Tonight

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

Delaney's dramatic pose graces the promotional posters. Courtesy photo.

By Marcia E. Gawecki

Tonight at 7:30 p.m., the Fall Dance Concert will open at the IAF Theater on the Idyllwild Arts campus.

There will be approximately nine dance numbers, including modern, jazz and classical pieces. One unusual ballet piece, choreographed by staff member Jonathan Sharp, has a modern twist.

“I’m so excited that I’ll be in Jonathan’s piece,” exclaimed Simian, a new dancer.

Originally from Mississippi, Simian earned a scholarship to attend the Idyllwild Arts Summer Program this past summer, and Jonathan recruited him for the academic year. In general, there are about five female dancers to every male dancer.

Simian explained that Jonathan’s ballet number is about cuisine, but also a love triangle.

“It’s about a pot, a potholder and a spatula,” Simian explained.

“It’s really funny,” another dancer said. “You should see Simian jump!”

Simian said that in one number, he leaps across the stage. A feat that not many dancers can achieve, I’m sure.

Gerard, a graduating senior, will be in three ballet numbers.

“It’s good practice for me,” Gerard said. “I’m looking forward to the show. It’s going to be great!”

Ellen Rosa, head of the Dance Department at Idyllwild Arts, is just back from maternity leave and looking sharp. In her absence, Jonathan Sharp was acting director.

Ballet dancers during student choreography last year.

Last week, Ellen said practice was going well, and the dancer on the poster was Delaney, a senior.

The Fall Dance Concert opens tonight, Wednesday, Oct. 16, at 7:30 p.m. at the IAF Theater (in the Bowman Building) on the Idyllwild Arts campus. The show runs Thursday and Friday nights. All concerts are free and open to the public, but arrive early to get a good seat.

For more information, visit www.idyllwildarts.org or call (951) 659-2171.

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

Published on: Nov 16, 2011 @ 16:47

 

Dance Students Prepare for “The Nutcracker”

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

(from L) Idyllwild Arts dance students Ricardo, Maddy, Gina and Mauricio prepare to dance in "The Nutcracker" with the Inland Pacific Ballet

By Marcia E. Gawecki

For many of us, “The Nutcracker” was our first introduction into the magical world of ballet. The Nutcracker prince, the Sugar Plum Fairy, flowers, snowflakes, dolls and soldiers–every fantasy came alive through dance.

This holiday season, dance students from the Idyllwild Arts Academy will be performing “The Nutcracker” with the Inland Pacific Ballet Company. The four teenagers, Gina, Madison, Mauricio and Ricardo, tried out in September and were accepted to perform.

“We got to audition because of Jonathan,” said Mauricio, a post-graduate dance student who had performed in “The Nutcracker” in Mexico.

Jonathan Sharp is the acting head of the Dance Department at Idyllwild Arts, and a professional dancer with the Inland Pacific Ballet Company. He also teaches ballet at their academy.

“I thought it would be a good experience for the Idyllwild Arts students to dance along with professional dancers in the company,” said Jonathan, who will be among them.

Twice a week until early December, the four dance students practice along with other students from the Inland Pacific Ballet Academy in Montclair. There, they take two classes, which last about three hours each.

In their Saturday class, they were learning how maneuver a Chinese Dragon.

Wait a minute! I don’t remember a Chinese Dragon appearing in “The Nutcracker” of my youth.

“There are many different versions of ‘The Nutcracker,’” Mauricio explained. “In this one, they have a Chinese Dragon.”

Th red, yellow and black Chinese Dragon, made of wire and material, had a large head, winged ears and a laughing mouth. A tall dancer was selected as the leader who would maneuver the dragon’s head. Behind him, the dragon stretched another 25 feet, held up by seven other dancers with sticks, including the guy handling the tail.

In this class, the instructor was teaching them how to throw their sections of the dragon over their heads, while they jumped over to the other side. These movements made the dragon move. However, each dancer had to be quick  and not step ahead or pull too hard on the dragon.

If they did everything right, the dragon looked like it was moving seamlessly across the stage.

“Nice feet!” the instructor yelled to Gina and Ricardo as they ran along with the other dancers. They had to exaggerate their “happy feet,” which looked like a straight-legged run.

Gina dances a modern piece during an Idyllwild Arts Student Choreography event last year

After a couple of times in which the teacher switched out the dancers, she brought them around her and gave a pep talk about the culture and dance.

“Remember, you are the dragon,” she said to them. “You are one with it.”

When the dancers laughed nervously at this comment, the instructor emphasized that they will always be visible to the audience.

“We can see your every move onstage,” she warned. “And all of the looks on your faces.”

Once the dance students got all got the twirling motions and jumping motions down, the instructor added “The Nutcracker” music to make it authentic.

At one point, the instructor showed Mauricio how to maneuver the dragon’s tail. She made slow, sweeping motions, like someone in a flag corps would do.

“I understand what she was expecting out of me,” Mauricio said. “But the other girls were pulling the dragon every which way!”

At times, the instructor would call the dance class over to look at her laptop of the Inland Ballet Company’s “Nutcracker” performance from 2010.

Although the Idyllwild Arts students are not getting paid for the nine “Nutcracker” performances held at the Bridges Auditorium and the Lewis Family Playhouse in Montclair from Dec. 3 to Dec. 18, Gina said they were fortunate.

“At least we don’t have to pay $300 to $400 dollars to be part of the production,” she said.

The dance students from the Inland Pacific Ballet Academy have to pay that amount to cover costs of their extra classes, costumes and various production costs.

Although the practice schedule is hectic and the Idyllwild Arts students must travel nearly two hours each way twice a week, they all agreed that it was worth it.

“It’s going to be really exciting to dance along with professional dancers,” Mauricio exclaimed.

Maddy, a National Honor Student and president of the senior class, made the most of her time in the school van by doing her homework.

“This is better than in my dorm room because there’s no distractions,” she said.

Looking ahead, Gina also thought it would look good on her resume when she applied for colleges.

The public performances for “The Nutcracker” by the Inland Pacific Ballet Company will be held from Dec. 3 to Dec. 8, with mostly 1 p.m. performances at the Bridges Auditorium and Lewis Family Playhouse in Montclair.

For more information, call (909) 482-1590 or visit www.ipballet.org.

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

Published on: Nov 1, 2011 @ 18:33

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yep, Student Choreography Moved

Friday, May 27th, 2011

Sorrelle performing in one of the pieces in the Student Choreography Dance Concert. Courtesy photo.

By Marcia E. Gawecki

As the school year ends at Idyllwild Arts Academy, there is a mad cumulation of recitals, concerts, readings, plays, and art shows to attend. Sometimes two are three are scheduled for the same night, and you have to choose. Yet, one event stood out because it moved.

The “Student Choreography Dance Concert 2011” was held for three nights, from May 11 to May 13, in the Lewitsky-Fisher Dance Studio on campus. Every night, after the thunderous applause, attendees would spill out into the parking lot and gather in groups by their cars talking about which one they liked the best. Sometimes they lingered for a long time.

That happens a lot at events at Idyllwild Arts Academy. People enjoy the performances so much they don’t want to go home. If they could simply hit “replay,” and watch it all over again, they would.

Gina performed in many pieces but choreographed "Nerds."

Needless to say, the “Student Choreography” was packed every night. Even though the program lasted two hours, some students admitted to attending all three nights. There were 19 dances listed in the program complete with interesting titles, such as, “Look What I Can Do,” “Kneeling Before God,” “December Follies” and “Nerds.”

The 19 dances listed in the program was a significant increase from the 13 performed last year. Each junior and senior dance student created a piece. Some chose to perform their own choreography, while others did not. Yet, each of the 19 choreographers performed in as many as three other dances. The junior and senior dancers included: Christina, Gerard, Ariann, Morgan, Adrianna, Cheyenne, Geneva, Delaney, Will, Madison, Gina, Giovanna, Sorrelle, Lani, Ximena, Allison, Olivia, and two Natalias.

It would be impossible to review every dance, therefore we’ll just hit a few highlights from the final performance on Friday, May  13 (which was not an unlucky evening at all!)

Laura's song, "Time Bomb" was featured in Adrianna's dance piece, "The Last Ones Standing." Courtesy photo.

“Look at What I Can Do,” was perfectly titled for Morgan, a new dancer who plans to become a circus clown. His story focused on two dancers, himself and Christy, his love interest. As dancers would come in and out across the stage, Morgan would juggle, perform difficult acrobatic moves and whistle along to the circus-like music.

“The Last Ones Standing,” a piece by Adrianna, a senior, was notable for its music, which included XXX, Lykke Li, Postal Service, and Laura, an Idyllwild Arts film student. She was surprised that “Time Bomb,” the song that she wrote for one of the movies last year, would be used to dance to.

Everyone around Laura kept nudging her during Adrianna’s performance, saying, “That’s your song!” But she already knew.

“I had come to the dance studio the day before to get something, and heard them practicing,” Laura admitted. “It was really cool watching a dance performance to my own song.”

(from L) Ximena, Cheyenne and Amira's arm movements create a dramatic scene in Geneva's piece, "Pointless."

“Tonic and Gin,” by Natalia, was one of the crowd pleasers for its fun and festivity. The piece begins as Andy, one of the dancers, drinks from a wine bottle and staggers across the stage. The seven dancers, in peasant costumes all dance merrily to the music by Beirut. Props like balloons, the bottle, and flowers in the girl’s hair added a nice touch.

“It was so very European,” one woman exclaimed, as she sat cross-legged on the floor.

“December Follies,” choreographed by Delaney, featured three dancers to simple piano music. It must’ve been bittersweet for Delaney, as she stood in her leg sprint on the sidelines. A couple of weeks earlier, she had been rushing to a Sunday practice, and twisted her knee.

“Oh, my God! What happened?” screamed Jose, a fashion major, along with dancers Gina and Giovanna, as they got off the school van, and headed toward Delaney strapped in a gurney inside the ambulance with red flashing lights.

Delaney, who had been through this many times before with her knee, took it all in stride.

Adrianna in full dramatic makeup. Courtesy photo

“It looked worse than it was,” she said.

Yet, as Adrianna, Marianna and Sorrelle slammed down to the floor, and dragged themselves by their arms across the stage, one couldn’t help but think “December Follies” was about a recent accident.

“Kneeling Before God,” the Lady Gaga piece before the intermission was a huge crowd pleaser. It wasn’t surprising that Will would use Lady Gaga for his music and inspiration. In fact, two years in a row, Will has dressed up as Lady Gaga for Halloween, complete with dress, wig and six-inch heels. Yet, this time, he left the Gaga costumes aside, and just stuck with the glittery makeup.

“It sounded like one piece, but it was really five mixed into one,” explained Kai, a film major, who mixed the Lady Gaga music for Will. The five songs included: “Alejandro,” “Bad Romance,” “Pokerface,” “Telephone” and the “Vitamin String Quartet.”

Just like Lady Gaga, Will likes a big performance. Not only were there eight dancers with glittery tears (including Will), but three shirtless male models (er, theater and visual art students) who brought in the large columns.

Will danced and choreographed the popular Lady Gaga-centric piece, "Kneeling Before God." Courtesy photo

A fast moving strobe light enhanced the Michael Jackson-type unison moves, as Lady Gaga sang, “Judas is coming/let the baptism begin.” When the music ended, all eight dancers were sweating and smiling happily, but none more than Will.

After intermission, some of the people had cleared out, and there was room to breathe in the Lewitsky-Fisher Dance Studio.

First up was “Cualacino,” choreographed by Madison, and the only ballet piece in the all-modern show.

“I can’t blame them,” Maddy said afterwards. “We perform so much ballet every day, that everyone just wants to choreograph something else.”

Yet, with its four dancers in chiffon tutus and point shoes, to calming classical music, it was a welcome break.

Madison choreographed the only ballet piece in the show

“I picked four younger dancers that I knew who loved ballet and could pull it off,” Maddy said.

The four dancers included: Anna, Ximena, Annalise and Isabel.

Ximena held her own in “Kouche,” a modern piece with five dancers in similar navy and white dresses, who danced mostly in unison. It focused on one particular girl, Natalia, who kept pushing the other dancers away, until finally, in the end, she was left all alone.

Other choreographers brought in models or mixed up crazy music, but Olivia brought in another type of dance altogether. For “If I Should Die,” she invited Ryturo and Mitch, two theater majors, who knew how to dance hip-hop.

“I choreographed the hip-hop part,” explained Ryturo, who was shown leaping on the Spring Choreography program. “And Olivia did the rest.”

Morgan and Madison performed "Simple Wishes," an acrobatic piece by Cheyenne. Courtesy photo.

Although the hip-hop parts was brief onstage, it added a different tempo to Olivia’s modern piece.

“Bambara,” the final act choreographed by the other Natalia, was epic in its magnitude. Like Will’s piece, it featured dramatic makeup, costumes and a large number of dancers. The jungle sounding music used heavy drums and bird sounds to create an intense and chaotic story.

The seven dancers, looking like wild animals, began the piece huddle together in a large cage. As the jungle story enfolded, the dancers would leap, crawl and dance back and forth across the stage. In the end, only two broke away from the pack, and the cage, to form a new life.

Everyone knows that choreography is the brains behind the show. It takes time, skill and practice to put on a good show. This year, these 19 juniors and seniors have “raised the bar” a little higher. Their efforts were appreciated. It was truly spectacular to watch.

For those who missed it, keep looking for excerpts to show up on You Tube.

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved. Special thanks to Ryturo and Idyllwild Arts Academy for all of the dance photos.

Published on: May 27, 2011 @ 8:59

Custom Search

Si Ji: A Night of Chinese Dance

Thursday, May 20th, 2010

Gina (front) and Geneva (behind) along with Macarena and Allison, dance to native Taiwanese and African dances

At the Idyllwild Arts Dance Department, they study mostly modern, ballet and jazz dance techniques–all Western styles of dance. However, for one night on Wednesday, May 19, a senior dance student introduced traditional Chinese dance–with all its history, drama, props and costumes.

“Si Ji,” which means “Four Seasons” in Chinese, was the name of the program that was directed and choreographed by Shih-Ching or “Cyndi.”

Cyndi got a grant from the Transatlantic Arts Consortium, which is a collaboration between CalArts, The Dartington Hall Trust and the Idyllwild Arts Academy.

At Idyllwild Arts (Academy), we have a big international population, and sometimes language is not an effective way for different cultures to communicate,” Cyndi wrote in the program. “I want to bring the community closer together by mixing traditional Chinese dances with those I’m learning at Idyllwild Arts.

“Six weeks ago, these dancers knew nothing about traditional Chinese dance,” Cyndi said to the audience of family, faculty and friends. “Now, they look like they’ve been doing it for years.”

She went on to say that all the dancers in the show had to practice for her show, in addition to the dance choreography show that was presented last week.

“What they’ve done here is nothing short of amazing,” Cyndi said. “They have learned a brand new style of dance and they are just beautiful.”

All of the dancers included: Adrianna, Dakota, Macarena, Kayla, Ellen, Anna, Mariana, Giovanna, Gina, Paulina, Hailey, Madison, leva, Justin, Olivia, Geneva, Alison, Sorelle and Ariann.

There were eight pieces in all to match the four seasons. Naturally, the first two dances focused on summer, including “Beautiful Sky and “Riverside.” For these two, Cyndi mixed the Double Fans dance with modern, and the Dai dance with jazz.

For “Maple Rain,” the third dance about fall, included ballet, modern and classical Chinese dance. The whole thing reminded me of the opening ceremonies at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

Naturally, the costume colors were muted orange, yellow and cream. The dancers began by lifting up large strips of sheer fabric. The dancers ran with it, did cartwheels with it, threw it up and then twirled it around and around. One of the dancers (leva), even got wrapped up in it, and was carried away by Justin.

The music, by David Karagianis, was frenetic, yet matched the pace of the dancers.

The other standout piece for fall was “A La Ke,” which mixed native Taiwanese, African and modern dance. The costumes for this piece were simple, shredded or torn white oversized shirts, with black tap pants underneath and no shoes. Yet, it was the music that moved this piece. It was by Indian Tribal Spirit, and gave the impression of traditional “bird songs,” or chanting.

The four dancers danced together in a circle, holding hands. Then they’d break away, and lean down with their arms folded, getting closer to Mother Earth.

For “Adagio Sorrow,” the first winter, the pace was slower, and the costumes were white, trimmed in pale lavender. The piece opened with the dancers’ backs to the audience, and their hands over their faces.

Dakota wore the most ornate Chinese costume, with oversized sleeves that hung about six feet beyond her hands. It was called the “sleeve dance.” She threw them out like a slinky, and drew them back to her almost immediately. They transformed her into another being, a spynx, or a spider, with arms or legs with extraordinary reach. And all around her, with elegant ballet steps, were Adrianna, Giovanna and Paulina.

Spring Swings mixed traditional Chinese folk with the fan dance

For the second winter dance entitled, “Ullr,” or the “ribbons dance,” we were hypnotized. Ariann and Sorelle, the two dancers, moved their ribbons like an expert Chinese dancer. The approximately 40-foot ribbons of sheer material were draped around their necks, and handled with their hands.

Several times throughout the piece, Ariann made dramatic circular motions with the ribbon, creating a moon or world around her. Most of the time, they flipped them high into the air, in perfect synchronicity. They looked a lot like Circus d’ Sole dancers.

“It looks like there are sticks in the material by their hands,” said Simone Huls, an ESL teacher at Idyllwild Arts. “Otherwise, they’d be wiped out by all that movement.”

The spring dance, “A Girl from Tian Shan, was an Uyghur dance style, and featured only leva. It looked like a folk dance from eastern Europe or India. leva’s costume was colorful, in bright yellow, green and pink. It looked like something a belly dancer would wear, with a beaded top and bare midriff. To accentuate the beat, leva played a tamborine.

As a senior, leva knew how to dance and command the audience’s attention. Jim Bum, who was seated with friends in the audience, noticed the dramatic shadows leva was casting on the wall. It was as if there were two performances going on.

For the final number, “Spring Swings,” all of the dancers took to the stage with white outfits and colorful fans. The upbeat, flute music by Teresa Wong, was perfect. In essence, there was beauty in the uniformity of the piece.

Afterwards, the dancers received a standing ovation, along with whoops and hollars from the audience. Ellen Rosa, the head of the Dance Department at Idyllwild Arts, who was standing by the door, said that Cyndi did a great job.

Custom Search