Park City High School’s dance company to perform self-choreographed show
The upcoming performance from Park City High School’s Dance Company II is sure to be an emotional roller coaster.
The dance company is set to perform its annual informal and informative performance, or informance, on Jan. 15 at the Eccles Center’s Black Box Theater. The performance will focus on six universal human emotions — happiness, sadness, fear/anxiety, contempt, surprise and anger — with dancers representing the different emotions through 10 pieces. Educational videos about the movements and academic principles of dance will accompany the dances.
The 19 high school students on the team organized the entire show, from choreographing the dances to writing and filming videos to creating the posters, press releases and programs for the event.
The students also came up with the idea for the performance. After learning about Bartenieff Fundamentals and Laban Movement Analysis, which are methods of analyzing movement, the students chose to embody the methods through dance. They selected emotions and experimented with different body shapes and movements to match the feelings, said April Buys, a senior and member of the team.
She said the dances are “raw and honest,” because the students had to access their own emotions while choreographing the pieces.
Ashley Nava, a sophomore on the team, choreographed the anxiety/fear dance. She said it was difficult at first. But, after time, she learned to overcome her fear of opening up through dance.
“For me, it’s hard to show emotion and express myself, so when we’re dancing, it’s like I move with a purpose. It’s something I can show my emotions in,” Nava said.
Malia Haynes, a junior, said it was “intense” to work on the sadness piece, and that some tears were shed throughout practices.
Each of the dances have unique movements to accompany the emotions represented. Nava’s fear/anxiety piece has a contemporary style, while happiness includes hip-hop moves.
Haynes said each dancer on the team used their own skills to create the performance, and she is eager to see all the efforts come together for the show. The students have been coming to school 30 minutes early for the past few weeks, and they have put in plenty of after-school hours since starting the project in November.
After all the hours of rehearsing and preparing, the dancers said they are even more proud of the performance. For Buys, starting the show from scratch to making it “alive and thriving” was incredible. “It’s a lot of work to put on,” she said. “I like that it really is our piece. It’s all of us. It’s everything we have to give.”
That pride is exactly the reason Ashley Mott, the dance company director, lets her students take ownership of the performance. Plus, she hopes they learn real life skills as they collaborate with each other, work through conflict and see the project through to the end.
“One of my goals is that they have a very authentic, real-life experience of what it takes to make a production,” Mott said.
She has had her students plan their own informances for the last three years.
“I watch them gain so much confidence,” she said. “It’s all on them, and at first they feel overwhelmed or like, ‘How can we do this? We are just students.’ But then they do it and they realize how capable they are and how important constructive collaboration is.”
She said this year’s team has been particularly cohesive.
Another major goal of the show is to educate the audience about the academic side of dance, Mott said. The students filmed footage to describe the different movement analyses, which will be shown throughout the performance. But, ultimately, she and the dancers hope the audience leaves having experienced the emotions guiding the dances.
“We go out there incredibly vulnerable. We are showing these emotions on a really raw level, especially with things like fear or sadness,” Haynes said. “I’m hoping that after each dance, the audience kind of goes on that journey with us. They feel that fear, anxiety, and then they get happy with us, and they come down in sadness with us. They go through that entire journey that we have been going on.”
The shows are set to take place at 5:30 and 7 p.m. and are free and open to the public, but donations will be accepted. The dance company is also expected to dance for Parley’s Park Elementary School students at 9:15 a.m. and for Treasure Mountain Junior High students at noon on the same day.
A Park City High School senior facing 18 criminal charges admitted to releasing pepper spray in the school’s lecture hall last month to prevent a conservative school club from hosting an event.