Strutting Into Townie Territory

As we stepped out of the car at Andover High School, we could not help but feel a little vulnerable as Phillips Academy students, thrust into enemy territory. Didn’t we need shields or something? Plus, we did not even know where Andover High’s gorgeous, “put-Tang-to-shame” Colin Center Theater was. Last Tuesday, Blue Strut, Andover’s jazz dance group, began its eye-opening adventure beyond the boundaries of campus to perform at AHS Dance Club’s dance showcase, “Lose Control.” A month earlier, members of AHS’s Dance Club joined PA’s modern dance company, the Andover Dance Group (ADG) for an exchange in our Borden Dance Studio. Like those done with St. Paul’s and Exeter in previous years, the exchange was an opportunity to show pieces and pieces-in-progress, and to discuss the effect of each dance group’s choreography and the rationale behind it. AHS performed three dances – one hip-hop piece, one ballet solo, and one jazz piece – while ADG showed three modern pieces that we had been working on throughout Fall Term. “It was great to bounce our ideas off of other people outside the PA community and get their perspective on our pieces,” said Renee Amirault ’07, member of both ADG and Blue Strut. “It was nice to see what people outside our community were doing.” The exchange ended with small refreshments and dance-talk. Afterwards, Maxie Holman, the head of AHS Dance Club, invited us to perform at their dance show at the end of March. Members of the group and dance instructor, Judith Wombwell enthusiastically accepted the invitation. That is how we found ourselves in the Colin Center for tech rehearsals, excited to dance, albeit some nervousness. The performance itself was Friday night. The seven Blue Strut members – Casey Aylward ’09, Renee Amirault ’07, Kiara Brereton ’07, Farah Dahya ’08, Megumi Ishizuka ’08, Mikaela Sanders ’08 and myself – left from the gym around 6 p.m. We were armed with “Strut” paraphernalia (folding chairs for our routines and matching, bright blue shirts). Before we left, our friends gave us some words of caution, such as “Haha, you’re going to get ‘catbonered!’” But those notorious words never materialized that night, as we spent the moments before the performance with the AHS dancers, talking about dance, school, and stage makeup. We never felt any animosity between the two groups of students. AHS Dance Club’s statement of purpose was even posted backstage. It read: “This is our eighth annual performance that showcases all styles of dance and gives students the unique opportunity to perform their original work. The AHS Dance Club is a forum for all dancers of any ability level to join together and share the love of dance.” In the show, the songs set the up-beat atmosphere. Some of the artists included U2, Missy Elliott, AFI, the Pussycat Dolls and Jibbs. The acts came with an air of déjà vu, with the same dynamic hip-hop, lively jazz, flawless Pointe, traditional Indian, and sultry salsa from PA shows like the “Dance Open” and 2005’s “Skyline.” Blue Strut added the weird tunes of The Chemical Brothers to the already eclectic mix, performing “Shake, Break, Bounce,” a dance originally performed at this fall’s Grasshopper Night. Despite a slight CD malfunction toward the end of our piece, the performance went well. The first act ended with a joint improvisation piece. In it, dancers from both schools moved together in groups of four to slow, dreamlike Icelandic music. Dahya ’08, head of Blue Strut, said, “It was my favorite part. I hope we continue to create a bond with AHS. Sharing our passion for dance and the arts is a great way to start!” Amirault ’07 added, “Since we do share the same town, it is great for us to see what is going on outside of our bubble and for them to see what we have to offer as well,” For those interested in seeing “what’s going on outside of our bubble,” AHS is scheduled to perform at Blue Strut and Hypnotiq’s joint dance show in mid-May. Until then, forget about the shouts from passing cars on Main Street and awkward glances at the entrance of Brueggers, and just dance it out.