Arts

Dance Open 2022 Embraces Diversity, Offers Fresh Opportunities to New and Established Dancers Alike

COURTESY OF PHILLIPS ACADEMY

Vanessa Fan ’23, Emma Tao ’25, Michelle Chen ’25, and Lilienne Zhang ’25, perform a Chinese ethnic minor piece titled, “Dancing by the Water.”

COURTESY OF PHILLIPS ACADEMY

COURTESY OF PHILLIPS ACADEMY

COURTESY OF PHILLIPS ACADEMY

Four figures in flowing green dresses gracefully danced across the stage, performing a Chinese ethnic minor piece to a soothing instrumental song entitled “Water”. As the lights dimmed, cheers and whoops filled the theater and Blue Strut flooded the stage, performing a lively jazz dance to Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl,” The Neighbourhood’s “Sweater Weather,” and Britney Spears’ “If U Seek Amy.”

“The choreographies are very well-thought, very meaningful, and the atmosphere was amazing. Everyone was clapping, everyone was enjoying the show, and I feel that both the dancers, the choreographers, and also of course the staff and the tech, did such an amazing job in providing us with this amazing show, […] I feel like there was a lot of variety, diversity, in what was presented, and that’s what made it so enjoyable,” said audience member Yasmine Tazi ’24.

Dance Open is a student-run show, this year directed by Annalisa Ureña ’23, Carolina Tieppo ’24, Ruby Flaherty ’23, and Myranda Lu ’23. Composed of a diverse collection of fifteen pieces ranging from Afro-Caribbean, and K-pop, to ballet, and contemporary, the show hosted groups such as Blue Strut, Hypnotiq, JVNE, and Fusion.

“It’s a group of many different talents, there are some more contemporary modern style dances that have a storyline, and there are other dances that are dance for fun, or its purpose is to entertain the public, […] so there’s a little bit for everyone which is why I think it’s such a great show,” said Tieppo.

Available to dancers of all experience levels, Dance Open served as an opportunity for many students to try dancing, choreographing, or directing for the first time. Tieppo was the first ever Lower director, and several pieces such as G^3 and Apathetic were choreographed by freshmen. Ureña emphasized the importance of giving all students the opportunity to try dance through Dance Open.

“I think it’s just a really good opportunity to let either dancers who have been in dance, they get to choreograph, which is really cool, […] also letting people who aren’t in dance and who never really done any dance before, they get to either perform or choreograph because it’s open to everybody regardless of experience, and a lot of people who don’t really have that much experience end up being really, really good, and you just wouldn’t have a chance to see that if Dance Open didn’t exist,” said Ureña.

The self-choreographed nature of Dance Open has additionally allowed for creative freedom. The rehearsal process was often spontaneous, with dancers pitching ideas and changing their dance as they went, as opposed to learning from established routines. 

“Because of APAC [Asian Performing Arts Club] and even JVNE, I got to choreograph a bit of my solo, […]  because usually what I do is I learn from practice videos or learn from online, so I would just learn whatever is there already, whereas here I get to explore my creativity as a dancer and actually think about what am I doing and how am I expressing, what the feeling of the lyrics are, what the feeling of the melody is,” said performer Solar Lu ’24. 

However, with this year’s Covid-19 restrictions and Head of School Day, performer in the show and choreographer of G^3 Kamila Garcia ’25 explained that it was difficult to schedule rehearsal times. Nonetheless, groups were able to adapt to such challenges through prompt rescheduling and asynchronous tutorials.

“I think the main challenge is probably just finding a time to rehearse, because everybody’s just so busy and have other commitments, and we overcame that by just sending them videos of the dances and they would learn it through video and just meeting whenever we could, and not everyone was just make it to every rehearsal, so just ensuring that they got those videos, I think really helped,” said Garcia. 

Dance Open provided an opportunity for new students to dip their toe into the dance world, and encouraged experienced performers to take on roles they haven’t tried before. Performer Jaylen Daley ’25 reiterated the importance of having a dance showcase, and hopes to implement some of her own ideas next year.

Daley said, “Honestly, it was just an opportunity for us to dance, […] everybody there was a student who wanted to choreograph something and I really hope this happens again because I have a couple ideas myself, but it was just a great way for students to just go on stage.”