Through the dancers’ eyes: the process behind Dance Company

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Eleanor Bogart-Stuart staff writer
Jamie Kim staff writer
Max Yera staff writer

The murmur of an excited crowd. Hushed voices backstage. The patter of feet rushing to get in position. Then, all is silent as the curtain rises ever so slowly, and the dancers make their first, timid steps across the stage at Dance Company’s annual performance.

Perhaps one of the most highly anticipated events of the year, the show hit the stage at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts from Jan. 12 to 14. Tickets for the final night sold out. These three nights were the only time during the year that Dance Company takes center stage, but this two hour show actually took a total of five and a half months to prepare for.

As soon as school began in August, dancers who wished to choreograph their own dance routines competed to have their dance number as part of the January show.

“It was stressful and difficult since it was my first time choreographing a piece, but it was all worth it in the end, and it turned out better than I ever thought it would,” junior Shireen Lai said.

While the process of choosing the student-choreographed pieces was highly selective, artistic director of Dance Company, Dana Findley, believes that all the dancers behaved very professionally.

“I think that they’re all rooting for each other, but they realize that not every piece is going to get in…This year, I felt like all the students did a really great job with their choreography and with their creative process that I did want them to have some part of the concert,” Findley said. “So, we combined a couple of ideas that now, you wouldn’t be able to tell at all in the final show.”

After finalizing the dance acts, including the student-choreographed as well as the guest-choreographed acts, the dancers are given rehearsal time to practice the dances by themselves.

“We did a ton of rehearsing before the show. And even though it’s crazy and chaotic right before the show, we always pull it together,” junior Dance Company member Lucy Gallop said.

In November, when all of the dancers had memorized the dances, Dance Company began practicing collectively. Then, in December, the group began rehearsals. Throughout this time, Findley decided in which order the dances would be performed. Meanwhile, Findley also searches for one of the most pivotal aspects of the show’s visuals: costumes.

“Each choreographer has a vision of what they want their dancers to be wearing, so they tell our director Mrs. Findley and she orders a bunch of them,” said junior Matisse Love. “I personally love the costumes. They are so much fun and they have such beautiful designs.”

Due to recent controversy over the faulty construction of the K.L. Peters Auditorium, the Company had to relocate to the Wallis Annenberg Center, making this month even more hectic for all members of the show.

“We were really lucky in that the Board of Education and the district office helped us. The Wallis Annenberg also helped us by securing that space, and they generously donated the rent,” Findley said.

This is the first year in Beverly history that the Company will have performed at the Annenberg, a revered performing arts facility which was built in Beverly Hills only a few years ago.

“Admittedly, I was a little upset at first to not be able to perform on our home stage, but after visiting and moving into the Wallis, I am extremely excited. It is going to be such an amazing, professional experience to perform at such a beautiful theatre,” senior Justin Friedman said.

Although the Wallis Annenberg is luxurious, performing at a completely new location has its drawbacks. Not only is the atmosphere in the Wallis Annenberg intimidating and professional, but the Company had no prior rehearsals in the unfamiliar space until the day before opening night. This seemingly major road bump played no part in deterring Findley.

“Although we’re a high school program, we function a lot like a college dance program,” Findley said. “I feel like [the dancers] are very professional, and the show is ready. The dancing’s ready.”

In addition, Findley will miss the current seniors, having watched them grow for the past three years.

“They’ve all grown, and they’ve become such beautiful dancers. They were already talented, but they’ve just gotten more and more talented and beautiful in their artistry,” Findley said.

For some seniors, however, this performance is not only a happy experience, but also a sad one.

“[This show] is definitely bittersweet. After four years of dancing with my best friends, I will miss it deeply. However, I am excited to take the dance and life skills that I have learned in Dance Company to the next chapter of my life,” Friedman said.

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