LFAS Dance Company Goes to New York

March 28, 2012

Arts, Breaking News, Dance, Events

The Langley Fine Arts Dance Company began its journey to the National High School Dance Festival in Philadelphia, PA on March 6th at 6:30 am. The grumpy, yet ecstatic, group of dancers and three teachers boarded the bus and made their way to Seattle that early morning. After a full day of traveling which included countless security checks and a layover in Minneapolis, the team arrived. Despite the excitement, everyone was asleep almost as soon as the hotel room keys were distributed.

The next morning the group gathered in the hotel lobby and, after breakfast, went in search of the nearest subway station. If it weren’t for Ms. Wolski’s organization and excellent directional skills, they would have been lost in the streets of this foreign city. For most of the students, this trip on the subway was the first they’d ever experienced. Stephen Girard Elementary Public School was only a few stops and a short walk away from the hotel.

That morning the dancers, along with Ms. Wolski, Ms. Steacy, and Ms. Orlando visited the school in order to connect to and welcome their first American sister school as part of the Langley Fine Art school’s charity, Project Kenya Sister Schools.  In addition, the dancers performed and spoke about what dance at Langley Fine Arts School looks like and what is special about the school.

The faculty members were extremely warm and welcoming.

After the dance company performed, Sabra, Lind who is a dancer and member of Project Kenya Sister Schools, spoke about PKSS and what Langley Fine Arts does to give its support and presented the school with a large banner, a framed print, and a collaborative book of Kenyan and Canadian poetry.

Stephen Girard is one of the newest schools to become involved in the organization. Their support has made the project international and their recent donation of $500 has made an immense difference. Some of the students had written letters to other elementary school students in Kenya and were asked to present them at the assembly. The coordinator of Project Kenya at Stephen Girard, Ms. Kane, mentioned how she wants to teach the students of the school to be generous and give back.  They were extremely enthusiastic and grateful for the dance company’s visit, as were the company members.

That afternoon the company visited the Girard Academic Music Program (better known as GAMP), a magnet school for high school students who are interested and gifted in the musical arts. One of the grade 11 students gave the dance company a tour of the facility and explained the dynamic of the school. Later in the tour, a small group of students, including their tour guide, performed three musical numbers that they had been working on. These included two numbers from their rendition of the musical RENT as well as a solo from a German Opera. The LFAS students were inspired by the commitment that the GAMP students showed and were very excited to share what they’d learned from this experience with their friends and family at home.

The second day had a variety of events to offer and, considering it was the first day of the Festival, the dancers were busy preparing for an unrelenting weekend. Ten students from each High School are given the opportunity to attend an audition at the beginning of the festival. NHSDF invites several recruiters from performing arts colleges, universities, year-long programs, and summer programs to view the auditions and set up tables around the common area of the festival.

While the majority of the company explored Philadelphia and visited the Liberty Bell, Brooklyn Robb, Alyssa Tavares, Alexi Hansen, Alexis McClelland, Patrick Arnott, Cailey Colton, Sabra Lind, Raychel MacAulay, Hannah Wildeman and YiAn Chen represented LFAS at the auditions. Despite being extremely nervous and slightly intimidated by the other dancers, the Langley Fine Arts Dance Company members made a lasting impression on the festival representatives and the recruiters. The dancers were each invited to converse by several programs, some being offered acceptances and possible scholarship opportunities on the spot.

That evening, students and teachers in attendance at the event were invited to a gala dinner and dance. This was an opportunity for the teachers from schools across North America to interact and share ideas, and for the students to meet dancers from other schools before their classes began the next day. A small stage was set up where dancers were able to perform or improvise in front of each other. While this was going on, many dancers formed circles in the middle of the dance floor where “dance battles” were a popular activity. Afterwards, the large group of sleepy yet delighted dancers attended a performance and, despite the excitement, could not wait to go to sleep.

The premise of the festival is to provide an environment in which students and teachers alike can share, learn, perform and dance with friends and colleagues from across the nation as well as abroad. Students were offered master classes subject areas including ballet, modern, jazz, tap, hip hop, musical theater, salsa, African, Pilates, Massage, Stretch, Injury Prevention, Nutrition and more. Amidst these classes, faculty members were given opportunities to attend workshops specifically catered to studying dance education and many were seen attending classes and lectures alongside students.

Throughout the festival there were a number of performances, both formal and informal. The Langley Fine Arts Dance Company auditioned its most recent piece “Cat’s Cradle,” which is an interpretation of the well-known childhood game of the same name. The piece uses several white ropes to represent the game on a larger scale. The dance company was accepted into an afternoon performance where they performed in front of the entirety of the festival.

The final morning of the festival consisted of one class followed by the closing ceremonies. This event was mainly dedicated to the official presentation of awards and scholarships. The Langley Fine Arts School students who were in attendance at the audition were privileged enough to have received a number of acceptances between them including Bates Dance Festival, Leon Dance Arts NY, Coker College of the Arts, University of the Arts Summer Program, Joffrey Ballet School, University of Minnesota and more. This ceremony concluded the company’s stay in Philadelphia and, after several goodbyes, they were ready to continue their journey to New York City.

The Company arrived, by train, in New York City in the late afternoon. After checking in to the hotel, the dancers prepared to visit Time Square which was, for most of them, an entirely new experience. Their hotel was only a short walking distance from the Subway station, which became their main source of transportation for the remainder of the trip. The activities for that evening included a group dinner at the Hard Rock Café, exploration of Time Square, and a little bit of shopping.

Before any of the dancers knew it, the night was over. The second day in New York began in the early morning. The dancers climbed to the top of the Rockefeller Center to view New York from one of the most famous buildings in the city. The team was then greeted by a tour guide who walked them through some of the most interesting and well-known parts of the city. This included Wall Street, a far-away view of the Statue of Liberty, and all that is in between. Finally, the company visited the memorial at Ground Zero. They were astonished by the size and beauty of the monuments and what was especially unique was the way one could feel the grooves of the names of each victim around the fountains.

After an inspiring afternoon, the dance company walked from the memorial to Canal street, passing an inconspicuous Kelly Rippa on the way. The remaining hours of daylight were spent shopping and bargaining for the best deals. To end the day on a high note, the dancers attended a showing of Chicago on Broadway. This was particularly inspiring considering the next day would be dedicated entirely to dance. The group’s third day in New York began with a private class at Pearl Studios, one of the centers of New York Broadway Auditions.

An established cast member and dance captain from the show the company attended the evening before, David Kent, shared his knowledge of the industry and taught the group a number from the current version of the show. The group then made their way to the Alvin Ailey facility where they were taught another private Horton-based modern class from a member of the faculty. One of the students of the Alvin Ailey school lead the group throughout the facility and explained the history of the company, Alvin Ailey himself, and the way in which the school and company works.

The Langley Fine Arts Dance Company experienced an incredible amount in the short time that they were traveling. Philadelphia offered a comprehensive dance training experience while New York presented an educational and enjoyable adventure. With their free time, some students chose to shop for souvenirs and gifts, others to see another show (Kathleen and Patrick saw Jersey Boys), and some to visit other New York landmarks. It was when the company was together as a group that the most memorable events occurred. This included a walk through Central Park, a visit to Strawberry Fields, group dinners, and nightly meetings in Patrick’s hotel room.

Mrs. Orlando, Mrs. Steacy, and Ms. Wolski provided the group with a short reflection assignment each night. These small reflections helped the team members to think about what effect the experience had on them. It also helped the teachers learn more about the students in the company and how they respond to being out of their comfort zone. In returning, some of the students described the experience as surreal, as if it never occurred. Although traveling with a large group such as this one can be tedious, the time spent created a stronger dynamic between the members of the Langley Fine Arts Dance Company  and will definitely translate in to their performance for the remainder of the year.

by Sabra Lind

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