Students Immersed in Theater And Dance During New York City Trip

Sitting in the plush red seats of the Palace Theater in New York City, Kieto Mahaniah ’16 enthusiastically discussed the lighting, set and other aspects of theater tech for the entirety of the 15-minute intermission of “An American in Paris,” a Broadway musical that tells the tale of a dancer with three love interests. In an interview with The Phillipian, Mahaniah described the show and its intermission, which was one activity during the 2015 Theatre and Dance Department Trip to New York.

“We were drooling over the fact that [the stage crew] was able to flip the stage and make it backwards, and then flip it back while you’re watching it because the cue comes on and then it spins and then you’re watching it from the front of the stage instead of the back of the stage, which is an amazing transition,” said Mahaniah.

A group of 20 student dancers, actors and technicians traveled with the Theatre and Dance Department to New York on April 18. The trip was designed to expose students to the professional world of theater and dance by taking them to several masterclasses and two Broadway shows.

Erin Strong, Instructor in Theatre and Dance and organizer of the trip, said, “New York is the hub of theater and dance in the world and to be able to connect [Andover students] to that part of the world – the professional world of theater and dance – I think is really important.”

In addition to watching “An American in Paris,” the dance students participated in open classes at Peridance and Steps, two professional dance studios. The dancers were exposed to various techniques from ballet to African dance.

Lydia Paris ’17, one of the dancers on the trip, wrote in an email to The Phillipian, “Everybody was very professional, and it was really interesting to see all the people… who were pursuing dance professionally. I learned how intense the dance community in New York City [is] and how to act and prepare yourself for open classes like the ones we took.”

The theater students took separate classes, including one on red nose clowning, a type of clowning that mainly involves the iconic red clown nose. The workshop focused on helping each student pick which personal characteristic they could use to personalize and create their own comical act.

Scott MacDonald ’15, one of the theater students, said, “The workshop kind of showed you how difficult clowning is because… with a stand up comedian they’re referencing things, and they have a lot of things that they can pull from. With a clown, they’re trying to entertain you with their emotion, with how they’re acting… it definitely gave me more of an appreciation for clowning.”

In addition to the clowning workshop, the theater students watched the Broadway play “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime.” The play chronicles the life of Christopher, an autistic boy, as he tries to unravel a mystery about the dog living next door, discovering much about himself in the process. Set and sound design were crucial to expressing how Christopher feels. In several scenes, Christopher and his parents touch hands – their version of hugging – and during these moments, the sound designer added a drone sound to show Christopher’s emotions.

“[The sound] helped the audience feel the decision that [Christopher] has to make because when he’s presented with that hand, he has to decide ‘Am I going to reach out to it or am I going to turn it away?.’ It really helps to pull the audience into that moment and introduce the proper significance to that motion,” said MacDonald.

The Theatre and Dance Instructors hoped that over the weekend students learned more about what they could do if they pursued work in the fields of theater or dance.

Strong said, “[For] 24 hours [the students were] only focused on theater and dance and what it’s like to live and breathe that for 24 hours. They got to get a taste of that and realize this is what people who do this for their profession do every day.”