Dance BTS and show


Aya Takase-Songui

SASS & PIZZAZZ: Dance theatre junior Marisa Chacon (left) and Senior Catie Jamieson stare at each other intently as they recreate the interesting tension of La La Land’s iconic bench scene.

Rita Lai and Karen Wang

Dancers in feather cloche hats and white pearls reminiscent of the Roaring 20s fan-kick and leap across the stage, entrancing audience members with the all familiar “City of Stars” La La Land soundtrack against a purple backdrop. The audience roars in enthusiasm as junior David Grannis-Vu executes a roundoff-back tuck in front of four diner-style black chairs. Ephemeral sights transported viewers as Dance 3 and Dance Theatre students presented their “Welcome to New York” showcase on April 27 and 28.

The two-night showcase was the final performance of the year for Northwood’s dance department, and also a night to honor the seniors’ contributions throughout the years. Thirty performances were brought to life by 38 Dance 3 students and 27 Dance Theatre students.

If there could be one word to describe the 35 student-choreographed dances, it would be cohesion. Performances were seamlessly woven together through the continued usage of similar props between acts, which emphasized the connections between dance themes— including existentialism, heist and freedom—and the dancers themselves. For example, as the “City of Stars” performance concluded, dancers performing to Amy Winehouse’s “Back to Black” appeared before the audience’s eyes on the very same black chairs, performing elbow stands and extended leg holds on the respective props. The dance concluded with cheers as freshman Sophie Wang executed a back drape lift as she was lifted away by fellow dancers in block formation.

Dancers also demonstrated their versatility in skill with dance styles including tap dancing and pointe, a balletic form of dance where a dancer supports their entire body weight on the tips of their toes. Senior Ellie Chan sang “New York State of Mind” by Billy Joel live with passion as Dance 3 freshmen Emily Hill and Courtney Lee danced en pointe. Chan embodied their character in a manner of showing awe towards the dancers by marveling at them intently, serving as a unique parallel to the awe Joel expressed for New York.

The tap dance coined “In the City of Dreams” appealed to audience humor in particular. Choreographed and performed by junior Marisa Chacon and senior Catie Jamieson, the two recreated Sebastian Wilder and Mia Doe’s iconic skyline bench scene from “La La Land.” Not a single beat was missed between the two. The synchronization of movement served as an amusing juxtaposition to the sass in facial expressions as expected when playing characters of such bold personalities. Chacon’s dramatic exit with Jamieson still sitting on the bench left the audience laughing with relief into the next act.

Another aspect worth noting was the attention-to-detail reminiscent of New York City life—chaotic but beautiful at the same time. Performed and choreographed by seniors Nadia Anan and Catie Jamieson, the “Times Square Beware” dance satirized the typical pickpocketing experienced by tourists in the city that never sleeps as the two “robbed” tourists walking across the stage. The impressiveness of dancers’ ability to dance with props was also seen here as the two danced with their hats on and off. 

Beyond acrobatic tricks, what was clear to audience members was the visible passion on stage, especially for the seniors performing for one last time together. The first half of the finale coined “Times Square 2023” was choreographed by senior Alejandra Aguilar to “Mr Saxobeat” by Alexandra Stan. In gold shimmery dresses, the Dance 3 seniors encapsulated perfectly the essence of a beat so entrancing that any individual would want to stand up and dance. Dance Theatre seniors highlighted the theme of interconnection to “Supercut” by Lorde. Emphasizing dimension, the seniors held hands in a circle as senior Nihar Abhyankar flawlessly executed a la seconde turns. In block formation, the seniors placed their hands on each other’s shoulders throughout the dance and ultimately concluded the night as they held hands with their backs facing the audience.

From somber hues to humor, “Welcome to New York” beautifully painted a culmination of hard work, passion and dedication, making the show an experience that both the audience and the dancers could share an enjoyment for.

With opening night just hours ahead, the practice room brims with both anticipation and last minute nerves. As dancers mark choreography over and over in synchronous fashion, others leap in the background with extension. Upbeat music blares through phone speakers as a facsimile of their upcoming performance stage. Almost a semester’s worth of preparation was put in for Northwood dance’s take on “Welcome to New York.”

The preparation behind the show first began with the musical vision of student choreographers.

“I chose ‘Fly Me to the Moon’ for my music because I often listened to it on repeat during road trips, and it just felt so freeing with the scenery in the background,” Dance 3 junior Anika Aloni said. “I wanted to portray the same emotions I felt during those trips, that sense of reaching towards your dreams with endless possibilities.”

Then, choreographers gathered together to discuss which dancers fit best for their concepts, and the class split into a handful of groups for the first round of dances. Sitting in a wide circle, they introduced their music and taught an eight-count, a short pattern of steps as a demonstration. With limited practice time and 30 performances in the show program, each dance had to be finalized within four class periods.

“As a dancer, the most important responsibility is making sure you can fulfill your part because you can’t let your team down,” Dance 3 junior Zoey Tang said. “Communication is a major part so we just have to constantly talk out any issues. For example, when I have trouble memorizing choreography, I’ll ask the choreographer to run through specific moves and I’ll practice on the side while they teach a different portion.”

Since each student choreographer is responsible for creating as well as dancing in performances, dancers are typically involved in three or more groups, which can make backstage feel hectic. You won’t see them during the night, but the tech crew works behind the curtain to smooth over transitions and ensure that everyone is in the right place. Remembering choreography over multiple acts can prove to be a difficult task, but another challenge remains in getting the group to dance in harmony—both physically and emotionally.

“Honestly, I struggled a bit getting my dance to the next level, for example, trying to fit the New York theme within the dance itself and getting all my dancers to vibe with the music,” Dance 3 freshman Courtney Lee said. “I have to make sure they can interpret the dance in the way I envisioned. I hope my theme comes across clearly in how everyone wants to make it big in New York and when you’re faced with failure, time and time again, you still have that hope that you’ll make it big one day.”