In continuation of my month long series of performance memories, I am excited to write about some of my favorite routines and productions through my formative years as a dancer. Of course, I gave (most) every performance my heart and soul and enjoyed (most) every minute of every dance, but a few stick out in my mind.
– “Dance, Dance, Dance”: When I was about 7 or 8 years old, I started taking tap lessons. One of the first tap routines I performed was to the Beach Boy’s song “Dance, Dance, Dance”. There were only about 3 or 4 of us in the class and we really had a lot of fun on stage, including a bit of choreography that including us mimicking strumming a guitar along our leg as we hopped across the stage. It was also around this time that I was realizing how passionate I was about dancing in general and this was the first dance that I remember really feeling inspired while dancing.
– Mouse King in The Nutcracker: As I mentioned in my last post, I performed in The Nutcracker for many years. My favorite role and performance was also my first solo opportunity as the Mouse King. Our studio did not have any male dancers that would be able to fill the roles of the Nutcracker prince or the Mouse King and I had gotten in my head that I really wanted to fill the role of Mouse King, especially when I found out that one of my closest friends was playing the Nutcracker. We had so much fun in rehearsals together despite learning to battle each other through dance. We finally managed to stay in character during dress rehearsal, but managed to speed through our choreography during the performance. But despite having to think fast on stage and improvise about 32 counts of battle with my friend- and being on the loosing end- I have nothing but fond memories of my time as the Mouse King
– “Your Song”: This was a lyrical duet that I performed in early high school and enjoyed the choreography so much I ended up adapting it (with my teacher’s permission) into a solo that I competed with at a church convention. Unlike some of my other favorites, I don’t remember why the I connected so much with the choreography, but it holds a dear place in my heart nonetheless.
-11 grade modern dance: While I have always enjoyed the movements of modern dance, many pieces that I have performed or watched have been a little too abstract or too out there for my taste. One of the exceptions to this was the piece that I performed as part of my 11 grade fall dance concert. We had structured our piece to represent the evolution of modern dance and the different technical styles of different modern dance pioneers that we had studied. We wore brightly colored, but practical, costumes and performed high energy movements that included a number of West African inspired steps and didn’t try to portray this deep, abstract concept that audience members would struggle to understand.
–Peter and the Wolf: I switched dance studios in the middle of high school to a school that had just opened. Their inaugural spring performance was a production of Peter and the Wolf at the local street fair in which the music was interlaced with a verbal narrative of the story. I was honored to be chosen as the lead and felt like my commitment to rehearsals and my hard work in technique class had been recognized. The advanced ballet class split the main roles of Peter, the Wolf, Grandpapa, the bird, and the cat, and the younger classes played supporting characters. Despite the “postage stamp” stage on which we danced, the opportunity to dance a silly story and improve my miming and storytelling through movement skills in a relaxed atmosphere really stuck with me. On speaking with some of my classmates from that time, they regard this performance as one of their favorites as well as it was so much fun.
Peter and the Wolf
-“Prayer”: This was a variation from the 3rd act of Coppelia that I learned for our spring production my junior year of high school. I went on to perform this solo many times throughout the community until I went off to college, including at the libraries and grocery store that I spoke of in my last performance memories post. Its not just memorable for the number of times I danced this variation though- my instructor became a coach during rehearsals and helped me prepare the piece for college auditions. I enjoyed the one on one time with my favorite instructor and gained so much invaluable knowledge and insight into ballet technique and performance. I consider these rehearsals and performances to be the height of my ballet studies.
-“Time”: By the time my senior year of high school rolled around, the advanced ballet class was a tight- knit group of girls that had been taking classes and rehearsals together every day for about 3 years (when the studio had opened). We had a guest choreographer come in and set a lyrical piece on us as a culmination of our time together- 3 of us were graduating seniors, one girl was moving away, and the 5 was staying at the studio- and this was the last time that we would all dance together. The song “Time” was about always remembering each other fondly, no matter what life throws our way. The 5 of us poured our hearts and souls into this dance, understanding that our time together was over, and ending up crying in a large group hug onstage at the end of the piece. The 5 of us spent so much time together training and cared deeply about each other and life was about to separate us. It was a moment I will never forget.
I very much enjoyed performing during my years of training, but now I find myself caring more about being behind the scenes cheering on a new generation of dancers. The final part of my performance series will be my favorite choreography projects on my students.
Also: It’s recital week! Gearing up for tech rehearsal on Wednesday and two shows on Saturday!