Fantastic dancers are commonly said to appear “effortless,” but the hours of hard work and determination that it takes to be a talented dancer are immeasurable. The process of putting on the dance show each year is lengthy, sweaty—and far from effortless. Dancers audition for the Upper School program, Advanced Dance, in the spring, just like all the other advanced classes at SAAS. At the auditions, dancers are tested on their technique as well as their ability to learn choreography. Rhonda Cinotto, head of the Upper School program, monitors auditions and then admits students into the program based on their skill level. Photo: Kathleen Stokes '16, Nicole Dubuque, '13 and Maddie Alden '15 perform a dance piece choreographed by Nicole Dubuque '12.
This year, there were over twenty dancers in the two blocks of Advanced Dance. Rhonda spent months helping students to perfect their technique and personalizing the lesson plan to fit each student’s needs. Starting Winter Trimester, after-school rehearsals were held for two hours a day to teach choreography for nineteen brand-new dances. The product of the grueling hours of rehearsal and class is the Upper School dance show, “Impulse,” which opens Friday night.
To draw inspiration for the show, Rhonda looked at a multitude of artists such as Auguste Rodin, Keith Haring, and Bob Fosse. Like last year’s Advanced Dance show, student choreography will be featured in the show. The students were directed by Rhonda to choose a piece of art to guide their choreography. Sasha Conley ’13 choreographed a dance inspired by Broadway choreographer Kathleen Marshall, and Nicole Dubuque ’13 used singer M.I.A. as her muse. I sat down with Logan Pettit ’13, who choreographed one of the dances in the show. Logan has been participating in Advanced Dance since his sophomore year.
SAAS Cardinal: Tell us about the rehearsal process.
Logan Pettit: Unlike many other performances like plays or vocal shows, there isn't a script or lyrics to follow. Dance shows are created by the choreographer and the dancers for the very first time, and as a result they take a long time to create and rehearse. We begin the rehearsal process as early as November and rehearse every week until the show.
SC: What is your favorite part about the SAAS dance program?
LP: I love dance for both its emotional expression and physical challenges, but my absolute favorite part of the SAAS dance program is the people. Each dancer is so motivated and so much fun to work with. Rhonda, our teacher and instructor, is incredible. She has such a strong vision and is amazing at taking students where they are and pushing them from there. She's a fantastic teacher.
SC: Tell us about your favorite dance in the show? (besides yours, of course!)
LP: One thing that's been really special about the dance program this year is the opportunity we have had to work with guest choreographers. One choreographer in particular, Alicia, has been really exciting to work with. She has a really unique style and beautiful movement quality that is so much fun to do. Her creativity is incredibly inspiring.
SC: Tell us about the choreographing process.
LP: While I've choreographed myself before, this year was the first time I got to choreograph a group of dancers. The experience was a lot harder than I expected. Creating movements on your own and then teaching them to others is one thing, but creating multiple moves at once and spacing it on a stage was quite difficult for me. That being said, it's really exciting getting to work with other people who help turn your vision into a reality, and the moment when it all comes together on stage is truly a rewarding one.
“Impulse,” SAAS’s dance show featuring the Upper School students of Advanced Dance, performs this weekend on Friday and Saturday at 7 PM. It will run 1 hour, 30 minutes; with one 15-minute intermission. Note that there are no matinees.