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Seven Steps to Success: What Goes into a Dance Showcase

After a year’s “sabbatical”, the winter dance showcase is back this January 28th and 29th. The program will consist of seventeen pieces, most of which have been choreographed entirely by students.

“I think what is most remarkable about the winter showcase is the fact that a bunch of high school students can generate, produce, and direct their own show; that type of thing does not usually happen until college,” the Director of Dance Department Jennifer Whitcomb praised.

It definitely is remarkable, and it involves a lot of hard work from several different people. Creating a great show in a limited amount of time requires not only dancers but also choreographers, costume designers, and techies. The unusual thing about the production of the winter showcase is that students fill all of these positions.

To better understand how the show comes to life, choreographer Daryl Cooley ’10 broke the process down into seven steps:

    1. “First, you need to decide the type of dance you want to create,” Cooley explained. “Once you have that figured out, you can start looking for the perfect music.” The next part is a tedious one. “Then you have to listen to the music about a hundred times and see what images come to mind.”


    1. Now it’s time to start making the “official” decisions for the piece. “After you’ve listened to the music, take those images and try to turn them into formations, so you can see how many dancers you want to include. Also, it’s good to start thinking about the actual steps and combinations for the piece,” Cooley continued.


    1. Then you have to cast dancers to be in your piece, or you can hold auditions. “This is a difficult choice because there are pluses and minuses to both options. If you ask the dancers directly, you know exactly who you are working with, and you can choreograph the piece around their abilities and talents. However, if you hold auditions, the dancers you want may not show up. Nevertheless, you know that those dancers who showed up are committed to your piece.”


    1. The next step is to choreograph the piece. “If I have a lot of dancers in the piece, I often use small objects, like pennies, to see how different formations would work with the music and the movement,” Cooley said.


    1. After choreographing some of the piece, you have to hold rehearsals and teach the steps to the dancers. Once the dancers know the choreography, you should run through the dance with the dancers, clean up the timing, and clarify the movement.


    1. This sixth step takes creativity, and a slight knowledge of lighting techniques. “Choosing the costumes and planning the lighting schemes are actually the hardest parts for me!” Cooley laughed.


    1. The last step falls to the responsibility of the audience. On Friday, Saturday, or on both days, sit back, relax, and enjoy the winter dance showcase!