Don’t Miss: Youthful, Inspired Moves

By on April 26, 2018

DW’s Junior Repertory Company unveils student-choreographed masterpieces

(Caroline Kucera)

JACKSON HOLE, WY – Each spring, high school dancers at Dancers’ Workshop explore issues and ideas most important to them. The annual New Dances/New Choreographers show isn’t just about the dancers on the stage, it’s also about the artists who choreographed the steps.

The spring show is a long tradition at Dancers’ Workshop, which offers students a rare opportunity to learn to choreograph, a task many dancers elsewhere don’t attempt until college, said Michaela Ellingson, director of the Junior Repertory Company.

“At DW, we are really focused on making not just technical dancers, but to also help the dancers find their artistic voices so they leave here as artists, not just dance robots,” Ellingson said.

Students often use the chance to choreograph a piece to explore what they are feeling or what is important to them at this moment.

“It’s a chance for the students to reflect on their own lives and develop their own voice,” Ellingson said. A few dances delve into the theme of breaking patterns and routines. “Square One,” choreographed by Taylor Gutierrez, investigates a person losing their individuality and “breaking out of their monotonous life,” the description read.

“Autopilot,” by Sydney Clark, looks at the repetition of someone’s day, how we go through daily routines on autopilot or follow others around us. Dania Sinzu’s “Continuum” is about daily monotony and the body’s desire for release.

Other pieces have gone in totally different directions, Ellingson said. One plays with 80s pop songs. Morana Lundquist’s “Activation-Synthesis Theory” looks at the randomness of dreams, how they appear in sudden flashes and the emotional reaction they might create, Ellingson said.

Another piece is a continuation from a 2017 work that includes sound bites from radio and television news. Last year featured news clips from the election, this year it’s about the first year of the Trump administration.

Most pieces are modern and contemporary dance, though there is some hip-hop and jazz. Students do all the work, from the choreography to the lighting to the music editing.

Members of the Junior Repertory Company start with taking a choreography class, which helps them better understand the process. They choreograph a piece for the New Dances/New Choreographers starting their sophomore year. That first year is always challenging for students, even those who naturally take to creating dance.

Learning to choreograph isn’t just about the dance, after all. It’s also an immersion in leadership among your peers, Ellingson said. “They have to develop a whole new set of skills.”  By their junior year, students are more comfortable in that role and able to lay out their expectations, challenge their dancers and stay focused, Ellingson said.

Learning to choreograph also makes them better dancers. They understand the challenges the choreographer faces and how they, as dancers, can contribute to the work.

There are two pieces in the show choreographed by adults. Contemporary Dance Wyoming members Francesca Romo and Luke Zender created the piece “The Underdogs.” It is about crippling insecurity and self-discovery.

“At an age where self-awareness is in its infancy, so is our ability to cope with the ever-changing variables of life,” the dance description read.

The other professional piece was created by Ori Flomin, who was in residency at Dancers’ Workshop in March. The New York City-based choreographer created a piece called “Inside the Shifting Lanes,” which looks at the lanes we cross through a lifetime.

“While our destination is not always set, unpredictable meetings and interactions with people along the way affect and shift our choices which allows our path to be adventurous and exciting,” the piece description reads.

Shows are 5:30 and 8 p.m. Friday and 4 and 6:30 p.m on Saturday at Center for the Arts. $25; $10 for students.

About Kelsey Dayton

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