Whenever, I’d see a dance performance, whether it be at Idyllwild Arts, RedCat or somewhere else, I would always focus on the dancers. Can you blame me? They were strong, attractive, and created “poetry in motion.”
But, I never thought of the message, or the brains behind the piece. I was only looking at the end result. But someone had to come up with the concept, with the ideas, and the dance steps.
It’s like when we see a movie, or a play, or an article, we don’t think of the originator, only the message. Well, it’s time that we thought about the dance choreographer. He or she is the one who starts with a blank page, or an empty dance floor, and fills the space with movement, sound and beauty.
Tonight, Saturday, May 15, Idyllwild Arts celebrated its student choreography night. Each of the juniors and seniors in the Dance Department had to create one piece. Generally, it lasted three to 10 minutes. They had to come up with everything from start to finish, including the message, dance steps, costumes, lighting and music.
As if that wasn’t enough, then they had to dance in two or three other pieces that their classmates choreographed. There were 13 pieces in all, and each was unique in their own right.
Only Ellen Rosa, head of the Dance Department, knew the message behind each of these pieces.
Tonight was the last night of a three-night run that began on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. Most of the parents came that night. There was so many people in the Fisher Dance Studio that they had to turn some away, one student said.
Tonight, there was an enthusiastic crowd of 150 friends, classmates, family members and folks from Idyllwild who like dance. Some, like Tucker McIntyle, head of the Transportation Department, had never been to a dance performance before.
“We take these kids in vans everywhere, but I never saw what they could do–until tonight,” McIntyre said. “I was really surprised and pleased with what I saw.”
Of the 13 pieces, I was only able to see six of them–only those that came after the intermission.
But, just because I wasn’t there, doesn’t mean that those first seven pieces didn’t count. They meant a lot to those who were there. They included: “Hypnotic,” choreographed by Dakota Bailey; “Stamina Break,” by Kayla Tuggle; “XOXO,” by Olivia Jones; “Irritated,” by Geneva Winters; “Balletic Randomness,” by Tramayne Pauillac Johnson; “Between the Folds,” by David Strong and Kayla Tuggle; and “Maple Rain” by Cyndi Huang.
Like searching through the channels on a radio dial, some of the choreographed pieces were techno, others classical, and still others rock n’ roll. And I’m not talking just about the music, but the mood.
It began with “All I Want,” choreographed by David “DJ” Strong, one of the few male dancers at Idyllwild Arts. He’s here on scholarship, and plans to go to college in the fall. His piece was surprisingly sentimental and romantic. The music by Ahn Trio, set the tone. Dancers included himself, Kayla, Allison, Macarena, Ellen and leva, all in black sports bras and tap pants.
The dancers moved back and forth across the stage, in a cat-and-mouse approach of chasing, then letting go. It reflected a male-female courtship, and DJ did a nice job of keeping our interest.
The second piece was created by Ellen entitled, “Empty Soul. ‘Be Good to Yourself-ASM.'” With that title, one can’t help but think there’s a secret message there. Who is ASM? Anyway, it was a wonderful piece in its simplicity. It showcased the ballet talents of twins Gina and Giovanna. One was dressed in a gown, while the other in babydoll pajamas.
Although it was ballet, and beautiful to watch, you couldn’t help but see the turmoil, the trauma, and finally, the resolution between the two. Who were they? Lovers? Brothers and sisters? They would come together, break apart, hug each other, hurt each other, chase one another, then finally come to some resolution of sorts.
It reminded me of the start of “Peter Pan,” when the children, all innocent and dressed in their night clothes, were looking outside. You just knew that something was going to happen, and they would never be the same again.
“Who Cares What They Think?” was choreographed by leva Navickaite with music by Yann Tiersen and Apocalyptica. The dancers were Anna, Kayla, Allison, Adrianna and Dakota. The lighting was red, which, like the glib title, set the tone. Each of the dancers formed a line, and performed robotic movements. As props, leva used three boxes, that were used as stands, and crawl spaces by the dancers. At the end, they were stacked on top of each other.
In the beginning the music was rhythmic, and gave the impression that everything and everyone was the same. There were no individuals, only robots doing what they were told. One couldn’t help but think this piece may have been a commentary on life as a teenager, with too much uniformity, and not enough freedom. Or it could have been a sharp look at student classes at Idyllwild Arts, maybe even dance classes?
The lyrics resounded of someone fed up with the responsibility of always doing the right thing and “cleaning up.”
“Why, Nancy?” was choreographed by Ella, with music by Why. The cast included DJ, Giovanna, Gina, Ella, Macarena and Kayla.
It was a frenetic, frenzied piece in which the originator was frustrated, mad, and spinning around. It was her reaction to a decision beyond her control. Earlier in the week, she confided that the dance was about the expulsion of her best friend, Ben.
The title, “Why, Nancy?” is not about a woman as you’d might think, but about a guy.
“Nancy was Ben’s nickname,” Ella said.
“I’m lucky to have dance as another form of self expression,” Ella said. “The irony is that Ben had never seen me dance. And now he’s got a piece named after him.”
Like most art, dance can be a haven, a sanctuary, a place to heal from the outside world. And to say something without using conventional words.
“Te Anuncio” was choreographed by Sofia to a Shakir music piece. It had red lighting, and tango dancers. It reminded me of Argentina, and the bold dance that started with men dancing with other men in the docks.
Dakota and DJ were the tango dancing pair, while Geneva, Tramayne and Paulina were the dancers. They were all dressed in black and red, with signature flowers in their hair. The couple continued front and center with their seduction for each other.
After all, tango is a very sensual, physical dance.
The final piece by Ariann was entitled, “Out of My Mind, Back in Five Minutes,” with music by Marc Kets, Associate Dean of Students. Before coming to Idyllwild Arts, Kets worked with many DJs.
The costumes, which were created by Jacob, a student from the Theater Department, were torn and tattered. Some crossed in the front, resembling straight jackets from an insane asylum.
In fact, the sign as backdrop behind the dancers read: “Idyllwild Pychiatric Hosptial.” Of course, there is no hospital here. Was she saying that going here was driving her nuts? As one might expect, the dancers were uniform at first, then others broke away and showed their individuality.
Adriann brought in the spoken word into dance. Some of the dancers spoke of why they ended up there. Some were accidents, others were traumas that never healed.
Like “Cookoo’s Nest set to music, “Out of My Mind” was a definite crowd pleaser, with over-the-top crazy sterotypes, with inmates with sunken eyes, straight jackets, sad stories with no hope and no place to go.
Ironically, Idyllwild housed a sanitarium at one time, where nice people cane to rest their nerves. It was also the summer resting place of the Cahuilla Indians, who came up from the desert to the San Jacinto mountains for the cooler weather. Legend has it that even the mountain lions laid with the deer up in Idyllwild. Wait, now that’s crazy!