Planning “A Little Party”

The fall dance show, “A Little Party”, just passed in October and was another seemingly effortless production put on by Monte Vista Dance. However, it has been a work in progress since the first week of school.

The dancers themselves try out the first week of school to showcase the choreography they created over the summer. After each dancer performs their dance for the class, the dance teacher, Susan Gordon, chooses which ones will be used in the dance show.

When choosing which dances to put in the show, she looks for variety, clarity of design and if it can be clearly taught. The students are allowed to have complete control of their dances and implement their own changes to best fit their vision. The only dances that are not currently created by students are the can-can and tango which were made by Jackie Hopkins in 1975 who was a Monte Vista student.

It is also the job of the choreographers to teach their dances to the class. The class learns one dance, Monday through Thursday, and tries out on Friday where the choreographers and Gordon choose the placement of the dancers based on stage presence, timing, knowledge and sharpness. There are five weeks of learning and placing dances, but the last two weeks before the show are dedicated to running through each dance tirelessly. The weekend before the show is filled with two, four hour dress rehearsals.

There are different levels of dance, and the highest level, Advanced, has the most dances which is six. However, if you’re a senior on Advanced, you could perform even more.

“I performed nine dances for the fall show,” senior, and Advanced dancer, Kaleigh Maxwell said. “My other dances were the can-can, senior dance, and a duet with Erin Evans.”

The next level, Advanced Intermediate, has four dances, Intermediate 2 has three, and Dance 1 and Freshman both perform two.

When it comes to the couples dance each girl asks a guy to be her partner and they rehearse the dance which is choreographed by senior girls, one hour each week. Every couple is responsible for finding their own costumes and props.

“It’s not always easy to teach the guys,” Maxwell said. “But the guys this year were super dedicated and excited to be there. They picked it up fast.”

One of the senior boys who participated in the couples dance, Cole Kunsman, has been in the dance show for three years for the tango dance and couples dance.

“It’s a lot of fun performing for the school,” Kunsman said. “This year was especially fun, because everyone worked hard and got really into it.”

Another huge aspect to the dance program that makes these shows possible is the hardworking group of dance TAs. Each class has a TA that is in charge of all the behind the scenes action. They are the ones who order the costumes that the choreographers picked out and make sure they are in stock, come in on time, and everyone gets the right size. They also either order props, or make them themselves.

The TAs also have to work either backstage or as stage crew during the show. Backstage, they make sure all the dancers are ready to go on, everyone is present and has their costumes, the lights are ready, and the doors are open on time. As stage crew, they wipe the floors in between dances and clear the stage of leftover props.

“The TAs are imperative,” Gordon said. “They work so hard.”

Gordon is also a large part of making the dance show run smoothly. She picks the dances, oversees the entire production cost, and is in charge of advertising. Local businesses put ads in the program to give money to Monte Vista Dance.

“It’s great to see the community support the program,” Gordon said.

When Gordon first started teaching in 1970 she did everything, but over the years she has allowed the students to assume more and more responsibilities. Now she acts as a director or manager who helps solve problems, make decisions, make the dancers look good and encourage them.

“The more the students do, the more they take ownership in their performances and the more fun they have,” Gordon said.

This production is a success every year, but could not be possible without the many dedicated people who are so enthusiastic about the Monte Vista Dance program.