New Dances/New Choreographers preview

Members of the Dancers’ Workshop Junior Repertory Company rehearse “Catching Light,” a piece choreographed by high school junior Kate Frederick. It premiers April 23-24 at the dance nonprofit’s annual “New Dances/New Choreographers” showcase.

Twenty-one members of the Dancers’ Workshop Junior Repertory Company will take to the Center for the Arts main stage Friday and Saturday evening for this year’s “New Dances/New Choreographers” production — the students’ first in-person performance in more than a year.

After COVID-19 forced last year’s show online, dancers said it would be their “dream” to do an in-person show this year, and Dancers’ Workshop set out to make that dream a reality.

“With the year that we’ve had, the girls are all incredibly excited,” said Michaela Ellingson, the junior company’s director. “They have so much gratitude and appreciation for the opportunity.”

With dancers aged 12 to 18, the Junior Repertory Company is DW’s oldest group of student dancers. This annual showcase offers a rare opportunity for them to direct their peers through original choreography.

“It’s honestly really rewarding,” said Ashlyn Fadala, 18, who choreographed a piece about blame, guilt and letting go titled “Me. You. Us.”

“The other day I finally saw it all come together,” she said, “and it was kind of a roller coaster, but I think they’ve done a beautiful job, truly.”

Ellingson said a key part of Dancers’ Workshop is seeing the girls grow as artists and leaders, not just technically trained dancers. With “New Dances/New Choreography” they can choose a theme that resonates personally and design an entire performance around that idea.

Many of the titles of this year’s creations reflect sentiments about the pandemic: “Beautifully Mundane,” “Reflected Connectivity” and “Head and Heart.”

The overall theme of the showcase is “What Is Now?” reflecting the way time has been warped by the lockdowns while also being revealed as precious.

“This year more than ever there’s a sense of hopefulness and joy,” Ellingson said of students’ work. “The creators are trying to bring a bit of brightness.”

Self-described perfectionist Kate Frederick, 17, choreographed “Catching Light,” a piece about trying to reach an unattainable ideal.

In the middle of the piece, a lone soloist is left to her thoughts, spinning and contorting under the pressure of seeking perfection.

Frederick said that moment mirrors her own emotions — watching the performance, knowing every detail won’t be exactly how she imagined it. By the end an ensemble of dancers, draped in angelic white silk, returns to the stage in a beam of light.

“Being in dance is what makes me happiest,” Frederick said, “especially when it feels like everything else is falling apart.”

In addition to choreography the young creators design the costumes and lighting for their dances, with help from accommodating technical director Patrick Millard.

The Junior Repertory Company has been rehearsing weekly since January, dancers keeping their coronavirus-resistant masks on as the moves came together.

“Just to be on the stage and in the theater, there’s so much joy,” Ellingson said.

This year’s show will migrate from its usual, cozy Studio 1 to the Center Stage on Cache Street. COVID-19 protocols will allow 124 people to attend, but company assistant director Luke Dakota Zender will use three camera angles to create a dynamic livestream production for family and friends watching at home. 

Contact Evan Robinson-Johnson at 732-5901 or erj@jhnewsandguide.com.

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