Students take art into their own hands at Progressions

Photo by Tyler Knight
Photo by Tyler Knight

Imagine being an artist who strives for perfection and fine-tunes every aspect of a composition for weeks on end until is it exactly right.  Except instead of a sketch or painting, what is created is nothing less than a three dimensional piece of moving  art. The theme of this year’s annual dance recital, Progressions, was color; a concept many student choreographers took to heart when creating their own masterpieces.

Progressions, which took place May 8, 9 and 10, gave dance students of the school a chance to show what they had accomplished during the year. This year’s shows were especially important, given the departure of former Performing Arts Curriculum Coordinator Lynn Modell last year. While Modell is missed throughout the department, no part of Progressions reflected the loss of a key teacher. In fact, it gave many dancers the chance to step up to the plate and create their own works.

The opening number, “Dance Passion”, was co-choreographed by both the dancers and dance teacher Kathleen Exar. From the opening note, the music and steps burst with energy, as a palpable tension slowly increased throughout the piece. The dancers, highlighted by bright red lights, split the stage into sections. One half held onto a portable ballet barre, mimicking a ballet warm up, complete with plié and elegant arm “port de bras”  while the other half hit hip-hop isolations with fierce precision. The contrast between the two helped ignite the pressure that continued throughout the piece, escalating as dancers all came together to perform the last few steps united.

In the piece entitled “Area 51” choreographed by seniors Maya Levine and Ayan Miller, the dancer talent spoke for itself. The alien themed dance looked like out of a sci-fi movie, with the fluidity of the movement melding perfectly with the futuristic almost robotic score. The color scheme, an intense green backlighting, made each individual’s moves slightly masked and a little mysterious. The choreography was as precise as clockwork; the stage was evenly divided amongst each dancer and every single girl hit each move like her life depended on it. The inhuman theme and phenomenal student choreographing made this dance as unforgettable as it it was creepy.

The student choreographed piece entitled “Home” was as timeless and refined as it was raw and vaguely disturbing. Dance teacher S. Christien Polos provided the dancers with choreographic assistance, however the meat of the dance was the dancer’s own invention. The color of the dance, a dainty icy blue backdrop and costume, perfectly represented the slightly chilling theme that matched the melodies of the song which sounded spookily like windup doll toys. The dancers used their beautiful extensions as well as their faces to tell the story of the music. The theme of trying to find a place to call home felt alive and real as the dancers channeled both emotion and hurt into their every step.

After a brief intermission, the show returned with just as much force as before. The first dance of the second half, entitled “Clutch” and choreographed by seniors Aubrey Johnson and Imoh Udoh-Warren blew away everyone in the auditorium. The dance was immensely powerful, beginning with the group of dancers simultaneously melting together then slowly drifting apart. The choreographers let each student highlight their best skills. Sophomore Noam Wizel got to feature her impeccable ballet technique throughout the pounding modern music while the other dancers got to express their own styles while coming back together as one unit to demonstrate their control and passion for dance.

Another standout was the both haunting and awe-inspiring dance aptly named “The Glory” choreographed by teacher Mayra Hernandez. Although the students did not construct the dance themselves, the individual talents of the dancers were not lost at all. By splitting the dancers into small groups, the profound nature of the music did not make the dance overly busy at all. In fact the few dancers onstage left the audience with clearer idea of the message the dance was portraying. The almost deafening music combined with clean choreography let the viewer see what it meant to be part of something bigger than the single person or group; to be swept up in an emotion and never want to look back

The finale of the night was a raucous, wild and delightfully fun party. “Happy” by Pharrell Williams blasted throughout the sound system, giving each class an opportunity to bow once more and throw in some lighthearted boogying just for fun. All the dancers wore different clothes from their dances, finally coming together to form an enthusiastic kaleidoscope of colors as they grabbed audience members and pulled them onto the stage to join in the fun. While many of the dances were intense and serious in nature, by the end of the night it was clear the reason why those dancers spend hours in the studio sweating their hearts out: to do what they love and have fun.


Isabel Meyers can be contacted at [email protected]