Archive for the ‘Dance’ Category

Bringing Music Back to Palm Springs High

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

Jake sings a funny song while Nelms accompanies him on piano

By Marcia E. Gawecki

For two glorious hours, a select group of Idyllwild Arts students brought music back to the Palm Springs High School. The “Classics in the Schools” event held on Nov.2 was made possible by the Steinway Society of Riverside County, a classical music outreach program that now involves more than 60,000 students, by providing piano instruction, keyboard loans and live performances like this one.

Savannah sings a love song

The “Classics in the Schools” was a half-day of entertainment for these middle and high school students, whose music funding has been drastically cut.  It also was an opportunity for the Idyllwild Arts Academy to promote itself.

“We’re always looking for more students,” said Dr. Nelms McKelvain, from the Idyllwild Arts Music Department, who chaperoned the event.

Ruth from the Steinway Society, introduced the students after the show

“We’ve got a great group of kids from Idyllwild Arts Academy to entertain you this morning,” said Ruth Moir, founder and president of the Steinway Society of Riverside County. “In the future, you will see these professional level artists on television, in the movies, and on Broadway.”

In the audience, was Stan Walden, who was invited to the first show by Ruth. He wrote the music and lyrics of the 1969 Broadway show, “Oh! Calcutta!” Ruth had wanted Stan to see the Idyllwild Arts students perform because he puts on variety shows like this one all over the world, she said.

The 13 Idyllwild Arts students who performed included: Manjie, Anni, Savannah, Juwan, Bohan, Timmy, Ashi, Alejandro, Ariann, Adrianna, Geneva, Jake and Lake. They were from the Jazz, Classical Music, Theater and Dance Departments. Each decided on their own songs, dances and monologues.

Although the students didn’t know Stan was there at the 11 o’clock show, he was impressed with their performance nonetheless. He liked the songs that the jazz combo made up of Alejandro, Ashi and Lake, were playing.

The jazz trio (from L) Lake, Ashi and Alejandro, got to play their own music

“That song is called ‘Round Midnight,'” Stan said, as he listened closely to it, sometimes closing his eyes.

Although the middle and high school students in the audience were listening politely, some of them were fidgeting.

“Jazz is age appropriate for pre-teens,” Stan said. “All kinds of music will reach them.”

He was right. Next up was Geneva, who performed a dance that she had also performed at the Spotlight Award preliminaries the week before.

“You go, girl!” one female student shouted from the audience.

After Geneva, dancers Ariann and Adrianna also performed their Spotlight audition dances.

“I wish I could have performed for Spotlight like I did today,” Ariann said later.

Stan said that Adrianna’s dance was especially good because she also used the middle of her body.

Adrianna performed the same dance she did for her Spotlight audition

“See how she’s also moving from the center?” Stan pointed out. “She’s pretty good.”

Next, came Jake, a musical theater student, who sang a funny song with Nelms and Anni at the piano.

After Jake’s rousing performance, Juwan, a theater student, slowed the tempo a bit. He came out and sat on a stool, and sounded like he was talking directly to the audience.  In fact, it was an over-the-top monologue from a murderer who was going to the electric chair.

Juwan had to change his monologue for the second show

“Have you ever killed anybody?” he asked the audience. “Ever want to?”

The audience reacted with cheers and laughter. Juwan was following his lines, but changed them for the one o’clock show.

“A couple of teachers complained about the killing part,” Juwan said during the break. “So I changed it from killing to love. I think it still worked out OK.”

Savannah sang a love song that wowed the audience. Like Juwan, she had to “wing it” for the show. Instead of a script, hers was a wardrobe malfunction.

“We got there, and she saw the hole in her stocking and said, ‘Oh darn!'” Jake recalled. “So she just added a few more to make it fashionable.”

Nelms had asked all of the students to wear black and white for the show.

“It looks classy,” he said.

When the classical pianists Bohan and Timmy played, some of the handicapped students in the audience were transfixed and transformed.

14-year-old violinist Manjie said that she wasn't nervous

A boy in a wheelchair had sat during most of the show with his head down, looking at his lap. Yet, when Bohan and Timmy played classical songs on the piano, he lifted his head towards the stage and smiled.

“You never know what kinds of music will reach them,” Stan had predicted.

Stan was also impressed with Timmy’s confident performance. Two years ago, Timmy had won first place in the classical music category at the Spotlight Music Awards. After his performance at the Dorothy Chandler Pavillion, he received a $5,000 dollar scholarship.

The final two performers performed together, Anni on piano, and Manjie on violin.

This was 14-year-old Manjie’s first public performance in the schools. She and Anni said they weren’t nervous, because they knew the music. Manjie had practiced it many times in her native China. Her mother even has it on video on her laptop computer.

Afterwards, Ruth Moir invited the Idyllwild Arts students to come out for one last bow and asked them to recite their names and country or city of origin. The 13 performers came from China, Mexico and various U.S. cities.

Bohan performed a classical piano piece

Before the last set, Juwan had invited the students in the audience to visit the campus or look on the academy’s web site,

For their part, the Palm Springs middle and high school students cheered, clapped, and took pictures, yet were reluctant to leave. The first two arrivals said that the seniors had decorated the auditorium with hundreds of pink, purple white and black balloons. As they left. some of the students grabbed them as mementos.

“We’ll be back next year,” Ruth promised the audience.

Satisfied, Stan stood and congratulated Nelms and Ruth backstage.

Copyright 2010 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved..

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IA Dancers Vie for Spotlight

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

(From L) Kira, Geneva, Sofia, Ariann and Natalia are five of the 7 IA dancers who auditioned for the Spotlight Awards

By Marcia E. Gawecki

“I felt good about this audition,” exclaimed Ariann, one of seven dancers from the Idyllwild Arts Academy who recently auditioned for the 23nd Annual Music Center Spotlight Awards. “No matter what happens, I was really motivated.”

Idyllwild Arts has a longstanding tradition of generating Spotlight winners and semi-finalists. Last year, seven students made it to the semi-finals in the instrumental music, visual art and dance categories. And, two years ago, Timmy, a classical pianist, captured first prize while Samuel, a classical vocalist, won the second prize.

Each year, hundreds of high school students from Southern California apply for the Spotlight awards in one of these six categories: ballet, non-classical dance, classical voice, non-classical voice, classical instrumental, and jazz instrumental. Then, the judges select 15 semifinalists in each category who attend master classes and vie to become one of the two finalists.

For the preliminary round held on Oct. 28 in Riverside, the Idyllwild Arts dancers included Ariann, Adrianna, Geneva, Kira, Marianna, Natalia and Sofia. This was the first time each of them had auditioned for the Spotlight Awards.

(From L) Natalia and Marianna warm up

Ariann was the first to audition from the group before the five judges.

“I went on five minutes after we arrived,” she said. “It was good because I didn’t have time to get nervous.”

The Idyllwild Arts dancers only had two weeks to learn their Spotlight routines and perform them. This audition was in addition to the many dance numbers they’re learning for their upcoming Fall Dance Concert at the IAF Theater on Nov. 17-19.

Marianna, a sophomore from Mexico, rushed into the waiting room lined with mirrors and toe bars.

“Guess what? After my audition, the judges kept me longer and asked me to do some things over for them,” Marianna said.

This was an unusual turn for the judges.

“First, they asked me to extend my legs, and really step into it,” Marianna explained. “Extend my legs? I’m petite! That’s as far as they go!”

“Then they asked me to extend my arms, and said that it was much better,” she added.

Marianna was worried that these comments from the judges weren’t a good sign.

“Why were they asking me to redo my routine?” Marianna asked the others. “I was so nervous!”

Veterans Adrianna and Geneva assured her that any conversation with the judges was a positive thing.

The preliminary Spotlight dance auditions were held in Riverside

“They’re likely to remember you,” Geneva said.

Sofia, a sophomore from Costa Rica, was quietly listening to Marianna. She said that her audition went OK, and that she was glad just to have the experience.

Although the Idyllwild Arts dancers auditioned on Oct. 28, it will be early December before they get the results.

“We’ll be on Christmas break,” Adrianna exclaimed. “Guess we’ll just have to wait until January to find out.”

If they make it past the semifinals, they will then compete at the Gala Performance next spring on  April 30, at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles. Grand prize finalists, (1st place and runner-up), receive $5,000 and $4,000 in scholarships, while honorable mentions receive $250 in scholarships and semi-finalists receive $100 in scholarships.

Copyright 2010 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

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IA Students Also Take Summer Classes

Monday, July 12th, 2010

Kitty with William, a fellow music student, was a TA for a piano class

Some familiar faces are seen on the Idyllwild Arts campus this week. They’re not former teachers or alumni, but regular Idyllwild Arts Academy students who are taking summer classes. They’re bored watching TV at home, or just want to hone in on some dance, acting, or music skills, before classes resume in the fall.

Jacob, who will be a senior, is a teacher’s assistant for the Costume Shop, and his first assignment is to outfit the play, William Shakespeare’s “MacBeth.”

“I’m really excited to be here,” Jacob said. “I was at home (in Utah) for a few weeks, but I really missed this place!”

Naturally, all of Jacob’s classmates won’t be back on campus until early September, but for many who attend Idyllwild Arts, this full-time boarding school is considered “home.”

As a theater student last year, Jacob became enamored with costumes. So much that he now wants to switch majors and focus on the Costume Shop, instead of acting onstage.

For the “Student Choreography” dance sessions held at the end of the year, Jacob helped out Ariann, a dance student, with her costumes. (See “Student Dance Choreography,” post from May 11, 2010).

“I saw her struggling with shedding the costumes, and I offered to help,” he said. “She was grateful because she needed to get back to the choreography.”

Jacob simply cut the short dresses in strips and pulled and worked with the material.

“It’s all about the material. The cuts needed to move freely when the girls were dancing,” he said.

The most notable part of the costumes was the “straight jacket effect,” in which the dancers arms were confined.

“That was a little tricky,” Jacob said. “Afterwards, everyone said they loved the costumes.”

However, it’s a giant leap from dancer’s costumes to MacBeth, but Jacob is ready for the challenge.

He also was happy to see his other classmates around campus, including Andie, Christine, Haley, Dakota, Kitty, Karina and Dom, among others. Some were visiting, while others were working summer jobs at the cafeteria or in the offices. Yet, most of them were taking summer classes.

“If an Idyllwild Arts student takes a summer class, then their summer tuition is taken off of their academy tuition,” said Diane Dennis, the Summer Program registrar. “It’s called, ‘Pay Once, Learn Twice.'”

According to the “Pay Once, Learn Twice” brochure available in the Bowman main office, Idyllwild Arts students who attend this Summer Program, will receive 100 percent reduction of their summer tuition from their academic tuition. However, it’s only available to IA students who apply to the summer program and are accepted.

Christine, a theater major who graduated in June, is a perfect example. She attended the Idylwild Arts Summer Program for three years, before she spent her senior year at Idylwild Arts Academy. Last year, she said, she received a tuition reduction.

“I wish I would have come to Idyllwild Arts Academy sooner,” Christine said. She was on campus visiting her former theater teachers. “It’s great to be here, and I hope to come back next summer as a teacher’s assistant.”

Andie, who is taking “Song and Dance,” a two-week musical theater workshop, hopes to improve her vocal and dance skills this summer. She will be a junior Theater major in the fall. She said she’ll ask Howard Shangraw, head of the Theater Department at Idyllwild Arts, to attend her final performance.

Diane said that Lina, another Theater student, is enrolled in “Theater Adventures,” a two-week class that begins July 25. There, students will act, dance, improvise and perform a short play.

For these Idyllwild Arts students, Summer Program classes can improve their skills, and “break up the monotomy” of a long summer.

Kitty, who will be attending Rice University in the fall, came back to Idyllwild Arts to help out with a summer class called the “Piano Workshop.”

Since she’s already graduated, tuition reduction is not applicable. But Kitty is happy to be back on campus.

Her plans to travel and perform in Poland were sidelined because of the economic downturn.

“She was really looking forward to visiting Poland. She really loves to travel anywhere,” said Kitty’s mother. “But those who gave her the scholarship said that they couldn’t afford to send her right now.”

Kitty won the MacNeal Award, one of many. Photo courtesy Idyllwild Arts

Kitty, who has won many musical awards and contests, will likely perform for music students during the summer.

Jacob is going to be a teacher’s assistant for three weeks. Look for his handiwork in the upcoming play, “MacBeth,” that will be held at 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, July 30-31 at the JPT. For more information, visit the Idyllwild Arts web site at, and click on “Summer.” And for more information on the “Pay Once, Learn Twice Program,” contact Tara Sechrest at (951) 659-2171, ext. 2345.

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‘Colorful’ Locals Make Up the Parade

Friday, July 2nd, 2010

Local belly dancer Raye De Ross will be in Idyllwild's Parade Saturday

Besides the horses, marching bands and floats, they’ll be plenty of “colorful” locals in this Saturday’s Independence Day Parade in Idyllwild, including Raye De Ross, and her belly dancing troupe, “The Outskirts.”

Raye’s the front desk secretary-receptionist for Idyllwild Arts Academy, but also teaches belly dancing classes once a week at The Chakra Shack.

“The Out-Skirts” belly dancing troupe is made up of her friends and customers, namely Sherry Cheney, Dakota Bailey, and her mother (who begged not to be identified for this article.)

“I have to live in this town!” she exclaimed.

She also insisted that she be covered in black from head to toe, including a veil for her face, that only exposes her eyes.

“If no one knows who I am, I can be free to have a little fun,” she said.

“Then we’ll have to put a lot of eye makeup on you, and put a bindi on your forehead,” De Ross said.

She is dressing the rest of them in colorful outfits with veils that cover their faces, long skirts that show off their waists, and belts that “chime” as they move.

Colleen is part of a belly dancing troupe called "The Outskirts"

De Ross started belly dancing 16 years ago, when her then-5-year-old daughter, Colleen, exclaimed that she wanted to take lessons. They were living in Seattle at the time, and had just watched an international belly dancing competition on TV.”

“It’s a misconception that belly dancing is erotic dancing,” said De Ross, who encouraged both of her pre-teen girls to take lessons. “It was originally created by women for women.”

She said belly dancing builds self esteem in young women and in larger women like her, who often don’t feel coordinated and pretty.

“Belly dancing is embracing our sacred feminine,” she said.

De Ross and “The Out-Skirts” plan to be walking more than dancing in the parade, however.

“Anyone who has been to a parade knows there’s a lot of standing around, waiting for everyone to catch up,” she said. “But, this year, we’re behind the jeeps.”

Like other parade participants, De Ross will be handing out candy and maybe some business cards to the crowd. She hopes to drum up more clients for her $10 lessons on Tuesdays at The Chakra Shack.

Idyllwild Independence Day Parade begins at 10 a.m. on Saturday, July 3rd, at the top of North Circle Drive, then winds down to the center of town. For more information, call the Idyllwild Rotary at (951) 659-4957. For belly dancing lessons by Raye De Ross, call The Chakra Shack at (951) 659-3191.

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Parade Participants Enjoy the Camaraderie

Monday, June 28th, 2010

Charlie Wix cleaned up after the horses in the Idyllwild Parade

Idyllwild’s Annual Independence Day Parade has been going on for more than 30 years now. Few small towns in the U.S. still host parades, but Idyllwild attracts the tourists, locals and volunteers like Charlie Wix who support it.

For the past three years, Wix has been scooping poop after the horses in the parade. One would think that he got drafted, but he said that he enjoyed it.

“Are you kidding me? It’s great!” Wix said. “Everyone cheers you on!”

He remembers one time, however, when a friend from Idyllwild Heating was tauting him, so he faked him out.

“I grabbed a handful of candy, and reached down into the wheelbarrow full of horse manure, and pretended that I was picking it up,” Charlie explained. “When I threw the candy at him, you should have seen him duck and run!”

For Saturday’s parade, however, Wix has retired his pooper scooper.

“I’m going to be sitting on the sidelines like everyone else, and enjoy the parade,” he said.

Earlier this year, a heart attack sidelined Wix, but now that he’s got the “green light” from his doctor, he’s ready to get back to work. He’s a popular van driver for for the students at Idyllwild Arts.

Charlie's house reflects his patriotic spirit

Besides the horses, marching bands and organizational floats, they’ll be plenty of “colorful” locals in the parade, including Raye De Ross, and her belly dancing troupe, “The Outskirts.”

Anyone who has been to a parade knows there’s a lot of standing around, waiting for everyone to catch up, but that’s when the parade announcers get creative and talk about the participants and past shows.

Gone are most of the corvette and other car clubs.

“Guess they don’t want to spend the gas to get up here,” Charlie said.

And the beautiful rescue greyhounds are no longer participating. Not because of money, but because of the heat.

“It’s too hot for them to walk on the pavement,” Charlie said.

Charlie isn’t the kind of guy that will sit on the sidelines for long. If he’s not cleaning up behind the horses, he’ll be helping out in some other manner.

Idyllwild Independence Day Parade begins at 10 a.m. on Saturday, July 3rd, at the top of North Circle Drive, then winds down to the center of town. For more information, call the Idyllwild Rotary at (951) 659-4957.

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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.

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The Brains Behind 13 Dances

Sunday, May 16th, 2010

leva portrays an inmate in a piece choreographed by Ariann

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.

Kayla dances to leva's piece

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!

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Student Dance Choreography

Tuesday, May 11th, 2010

leva and Justin (shown at another performance) will be showcasing their own work

Student Dance Choreography is happening again this Thursday through Saturday, May 12-14, at the Dance Studio on the Idyllwild Arts campus.

It’s a forum for the junior and senior dance majors to showcase their talents for three to 10 minutes onstage.

“Most of the pieces are modern, but there’s some ballet pieces as well,” said leva, a senior dance major. “Cyndi tried to choreogrpah a Chinese piece, but it didn’t work out, so she made it more modern.”

For weeks, the students have been getting ready by choreographing, practicing with their fellow dancers, making costumes and selecting their music.

“Each of the juniors and seniors have to choreograph their own piece, then they also have to dance in two or three other pieces,” leva explained. “It’s really fun to create one and dance in others.”

Cyndi Huang was interested in choreographing a Chinese piece

Her piece was modern, she said, and centered on dancing around three black boxes.

Anna, another senior dance major, said that her piece was modern too. Neither wanted to give too many details away before the performance.

“You’ll just have to come,” Anna said.

Everyone helps with the performances, even non-dancers. Jacobl, a junior theater major with a focus on costuming, is helping out with Ariann’s costumes.

“I saw her struggling with shedding the costumes, and I offered to help,” he said. “She was grateful because she needed to get back to the choreography.”

Dakota and Justin (shown at another event) will be choreographing modern pieces

Jacob simply cut the short dresses in strips and pulled and worked with the material. “It’s all about the material. The cuts needed to move freely when the girls were dancing,” he said.

The juniors and seniors that will be showcasing their choreography include: Adrianna, Sofia, Dakota, Cyndi, Ellen, Ariann, leva, Justin, Tramayne, Anna, DJ, Kayla, Ella and Geneva.

The underclassmen who will be performing include: Marianna, Gina, Giovanna, Macarena, Kira, Allie, Paulina and Hailey.

All shows are open to the public and start at 7:30 p.m. in the Dance Studio on the Idyllwild Arts campus. For more information, visit or call (951) 659-2171.

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Idyllwild Arts “Rocks the House”

Sunday, February 28th, 2010

In California and across the nation, funding for music and the arts has been cut drastically. And yet, the arts endure. Someone once said, “Artists are the first and last to speak.” In today’s economy, they just have to find creative ways of bringing their beloved arts back to the schools, especially grade schools.

On Saturday, Feb. 27, select students from the Idyllwild Arts music, theater and dance departments participated in the 3rd Annual “Rock the House,” a fund-raising festival to benefit the Palm Desert Charter Middle School. Idyllwild Arts Academy was among the 35 schools from the Coachella Valley, Redlands, Palm Springs, Palm Desert, La Quinta, Indio and Idyllwild areas that showcased their talents.

“We’re here partly because it’s great publicity for our school,” said Marshall Hawkins, head of the Jazz Department, Idyllwild Arts, who hosted and participated in the event along with Paul Carmen. “Our kids get a chance to perform in front of a new audience. You can’t buy this kind of publicity!”

Those jazz music students who played with Marshall and Paul at “Rock the House,” included: Alejandro Barron, Jesse Berlin, Ashi Whatley-Manoff, Kathryn Schmidt, Benny Kleinerman, Reagan Schweers, Caleb Hensinger and Jacob Gershel.

The two 20-minute jazz sets, at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. were held in the jazz tent outside. Kathryn sang “Body and Soul,” an old Billie Holiday tune, and the jazz band played several different jazz tunes.

“Look! We’re considered ‘headliners,’” said Ellen King, a senior dancer. “Strata,” their Circus de Sole-type modern dance performance with world music (choreographed by Stephanie Gilliland), stunned the crowd, but it wasn’t without its problems. Their music wasn’t cued up in time, and it skipped throughout the performance. Luckily, it wasn’t obvious to the audience.

For the final bit of the “Strata” performance, Shih-Ching “Cyndi” Huang wore a white top and twirled around in circles. But since the music was skipping, she kept twirling and twirling until they finally stopped the music.

“I thought Cyndi was going to throw up,” said Dakota Bailey. “She twirled too many times.” Besides Ellen, Dakota and Cyndi, the Idyllwild Arts dancers included: Leva Navickaite, Adrianna Audoma, Macarena Gomez, Justin Patchett and Geneva Winters.

At 3 p.m., Joey Jensen, Preston Pounds and Ruby Day, three Musical Theater seniors, each sang a song of their choice, and then collaborated on a trio. Daphne “Kitty” Honma, from the Music department, was their piano accompanist. Ruby and Preston sang songs from the musical, “Hair,” including “Easy to be Hard” and “Where Do I Go?” Joey’s song, “I’d Rather Be Sailing” came from “A New Brain.”

“I’m so proud of all of our students today,” said Bonnie Carpenter, Associate Dean of the Arts, who coordinated the trip.

The group braved torrential rain and snow conditions in Idyllwild to get to Palm Desert, only to be met by sunshine and warm weather. They also had a warm reception by those who attending the “Rock the House” event. Young and old alike came up to various Idyllwild Arts dancers, musicians and singers, and congratulated them on their performances.