La La Land, Swan Lake, and Rihanna: Annual Dance Open Showcases Student Choreographed Groups

Poised elegantly with her arms extended, Emily Jackson ’19 struck her tap shoes on the floor with the rest of the members of Footnotes, Andover’s tap dancing troupe, as they joined in a lively dance to “Another Day of Sun” from the film “La La Land” in last weekend’s Dance Open. Striking complex patterns of taps while swiftly moving their upper bodies in circular motions, members of Footnotes turned around and held their arms high up to the final verse of the song to conclude their performance.

“[‘Another Day of Sun’] was definitely one of the most energetic dances that we’ve ever choreographed, and it was really bright and fun. It was a really great way to start the show, get people’s energy pumping, and since ‘La La Land’ was so popular this year, we thought it would be a really great song,” said Daniela Ronga ’18, co-head of Footnotes and co-director of Dance Open.

Footnotes’ performance kicked off this year’s Dance Open show that was held in Steinbach Theater. The show was directed by Annie McGovern ’18 and Ronga, and it featured student-choreographed dance performances of various genres ranging from hip-hop to ballet.

“I expected it to be in Tang [Theatre], but being in the studio was a lot more intimate, and it seemed a lot more special. It was a lot smaller. I was closer to the dancers, and I don’t dance, but I was able to feel the atmosphere. The environment was a little more welcoming and friendly,” said Adaeze Izuegbunam ’20, an audience member.

Another performance featured a ballet duet of “Swan Lake,” choreographed by Yishu Chen ’19. The duet included the dances of a white and black swan, as Chen and Michelle Jeon ’19, dressed respectively, alternated solo movements with contrasting music. Their respective dances conveyed emotions of either virtue or evil that were accompanied by dramatic light shifts between bright white and vivid red.

“My dance is kind of about how the white swan and the black swan come out to be very different people at first, and they kind of merge into one character and they bond,” said Chen. “This was a great opportunity to add something new to the mix, especially with a little bit of ballet, which is rare for Dance Open,” she continued.

As a soloist, Ronga performed a dance titled “Summer Nights” to the song “Young and Beautiful” by Lana Del Rey. Dressed in a black skirt and top, Ronga pirouetted and moved fluidly to the melancholy music in wavelike, smooth movements.

“My solo was really fun to choreograph. It was contemporary style, but it was a little bit easier just because it was just myself,” said Ronga.

Immersed in dark blue light, Jackson and Zora Stewart ’19 performed to “Split” by Elliot Moss. The synchronized duet danced in smooth motions, accompanied by relaxed, repeating lyrics.

“Each move has a purpose and belongs in the dance, and everything just kind of comes together as a whole to send a message or just send feelings or just to express yourself and [the choreography] all just happened because that’s the thing about dance. It’s all just kind of natural when you really get into it and you really feel it,” said Jackson.