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The Youth Performing Arts School’s performances range from musical theatre to classical music to student-run playwriting festivals. However, one event that incorporates several styles is the annual Dance Concert. For someone unfamiliar with the Youth Performing Arts School, Dance Concert 2012 would be a great introduction.
The show began with a cute number, “An American in Paris.” Rows of dancers, always smiling effervescently in pinstriped suits and French dresses, created a scene reminiscent of Madeline as the students tap-danced in lines against a backdrop of famous Parisian landmarks. It started the show on a happy tone, but unfortunately, the dance that followed failed to keep the audience’s interest as much.
The next piece, Theresa Mudd’s “Napoli,” has historic origins, and that was clearly the audience to which it was best suited. The dance used younger students, most of whom clearly were unable to meet the demands expected of other dancers in the show. What’s more, the piece’s placement in the program as a whole seemed to imply that the choreographers wanted to get younger talents out of the way early to keep the audience’s interest. The piece was languid and uninteresting, but it was at least redeemed with a far better ballet, “Pas de Quatre,” later on in the program.
“Unrest,” which followed “Napoli,” contrasted the previous selections with a nice transition to modern dance. “Unrest” suggested the evolution of a protest. Three girls in the fetal position on a dark stage began the dance, and they remained in place until saved by another dancer, a heroic figure who roused the girls to action and gained offstage followers. The dancers contorted into weird positions and the group seemed chaotic and unorganized, save for the group’s unifying gesture: a forceful fist pound. The piece crescendoed into a scene of tumbling and tumult. The red lighting suggested bars on a jail cell as the group began to break up. Dancers stopped standing with each other as most returned to the fetal position. The dance found favor with a younger audience, and rightly so: it was easily the most engaging piece in the first half as well as the most narrative.
After the intermission, Dance Concert became far more upbeat. The audience was told the background behind Lora Ruttan’s “Pas de Quatre” – the original four ballerinas were rivals of each other, and it showed in their performance. The audience found comic relief in the dancers’ effusive (and completely fake) politeness to each other on stage. Regardless of a “rivalry,” “Pas de Quatre” was clearly an excellent showcase for the talents of its four senior dancers. Each ballerina had a solo and did plenty of pirouettes, arabesques, and equally demanding ballet moves that thoroughly impressed the audience.
“Calypso,” based on Bob Fosse’s original choreography, was certainly a very unique piece. The dancers, wearing bright Lycra outfits (though many dancers were shirtless, or nearly so), balanced hats on their heads as they tiptoed, bebopped, and belly danced across the stage. The dance was energetic and fun, and its rhythm was infectious.
Despite an early piece or two that might deter one from the show as a whole, Dance Concert 2012 is worth going to for anyone who wants to see high-quality dancing and choreography. This show reflects YPAS well, and it would behoove anyone interested in dance to see it soon.