Ballet students take on social media with ‘Sheep’ |

Ballet students take on social media with ‘Sheep’

Students from the Peggy Bergmann Ballet West Academy will perform Michelle Player’s “Sheep: The Social Media Experience,” which depicts the harmful effects of social media, Saturday at the Jim Santy Auditorium.
Courtesy of Cheryl Fox

“Sheep: The Social Media Experience”
2:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 18
Park City Library’s Jim Santy Auditorium, 1255 Park Ave.

Last fall, Peggy Bergmann Ballet West Academy performance director and choreographer Michelle Player approached her students about creating a dance number that conveys the effects of social media on teens.

Once Willoughby Staley, a Ballet West Academy student and junior at Park City High School, heard about the idea, she wanted to be part of the production because of how social media affected her.

“I usually don’t have a lot of time for social media, but I have noticed, however, when I do go on it, it can either be really fun because all my friends are on it, or it can be hard because I’ll see something that I wished I could have done or had the time to go to parties and amazing vacations,” Staley, 16, said. “So, this was an interesting aspect of social media that Michelle actually called out that I, at first, didn’t think affected me.”

Staley and 16 of her fellow dancers will perform the piece, “Sheep: The Social Media Experience,” at 2:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. at the Park City Library’s Jim Santy Auditorium. The performances are free and open to the public.

Player got the idea to create the piece after seeing how her students reacted to social media.

While the show refers to scientific evidence, it provides an artistic rendering of how social media can be addictive and harmful, she said.

“As a veteran teacher, I have witnessed a transformation in how my students socialize and process information,” Player said. “Through observation and research, I am convinced that these troubling changes are connected to their social media habits. I feel inspired to share my findings and hope that the artistic and creative deliverance will generate an emotional response from our audience.”

“Sheep” is a contemporary piece that utilizes spoken word, music and movement to address issues of self esteem, bullying and mental health, said Staley, who has been dancing for 12 years.

(Social media) can be hard because I’ll see something that I wished I could have done.

Willougby Staley, Ballet West Academy dancer

The narration was written by Michelle and spoken by Alexa Wilcox, who was a senior who graduated last year, according to Staley.

“We are dancing while the words are being spoken and we use our bodies to demonstrate what the words mean,” she said.

The music includes The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby,” according to Staley.

“That song is so impactful because it talks about ‘all the lonely people,’” she said. “The music is so engaging, and this piece is such a different way to convey the ideas about how harmful social media can be.”

While working on the piece, Staley also realized how time she was spending on social media.

“I began to see that I could use that time doing something more productive, like reading,” she said.

Staley and her dancemates have already performed “Sheep” at Kearns and Juan Diego high schools in the Salt Lake Valley, as well as Ecker Hill Middle School in Park City, according to Cati Snarr, Peggy Bergmann Ballet West Academy principal.

“It’s interesting because when the audiences file in, they are so rowdy, but once the performance starts, you can hear a pin drop,” she said.

The production is part of Ballet West’s education and outreach program, which is helmed by education director Peter Christie.

“Peter usually does these productions, but didn’t do this one,” Snarr said. “Instead, he gave us permission to explore our own route with this.”

Snarr is proud of how the dancers have latched onto the project.

“It was the dancers to did a bunch of research and started creating the piece with Michelle,” she said.

Staley said she is looking forward to performing “Sheep” for her hometown.

“I’m really excited for the community to see it,” she said. “We worked so hard and I think the message needs to be seen and heard here.”

Staley’s mother, Cheryl Fox concurred with Snarr, and said she hopes people will attend one or both performances.

“As a parent, I’m very concerned about how social media is effecting the lives of my kids,” she said. “This dance is a unique way to present the issue to kids so that they will understand how they’re being manipulated.”

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