Photo Courtesy of Mr. Brenfleck
January 10, 2018
Martin Luther King Jr.’s fierce words echoed across the packed auditorium as over twenty dancers rhythmically strutted across the dim light stage. Their silhouettes mirrored the struggle yet perseverance of Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement, reflecting the poignant message of “We Shall Overcome.”
It was this dance along with over a dozen others that once again garnered tears, applause, and standing ovations at Atholton’s annual winter dance concert, entitled “Shimmy, Groove & Move” on December 8 and 15.
“Dance is such a diverse family; we bring together so many people and build relationships that may not have happened otherwise,” dance teacher Ms. Haffey said. “It’s a celebration every time the dancers are on stage.”
Ms. Haffey choreographed a concert that sparked a range of emotions and showcased a myriad of dance styles. Boosting the upbeat atmosphere, Senior Dance Company performed a tap piece to Hamilton’s “Wait for It,” Dance II performed a jazz piece to “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend,”and Junior & Senior Companies brought the holiday spirit with “Sleigh Ride.” The finale also exuded this energy, with throwback songs such as “I Want You Back” and“Let it Be.”
Ms. Haffey also added some humor to the finale, where Senior Company danced to “Splish Splash” and pretended like they were bathing, enlisting bathing suits, towels, sponges, and a fake water as props. Junior Sarah Propst, a Senior Company dancer, loved this dance because she got to sport a shower cap.
Sophomore Nolan Chong, who attended the dance concert on its opening night, said “[The finale] made me feel energetic—the upbeat that it had and the tempo. I just really enjoyed it.”
Ms. Haffey and her dancers were not afraid to tackle the emotional pieces, as well. Bringing back a tear-jerker from the 2013 winter performance, dancers from Dancer IV, Junior Company, and Senior Company performed “Don’t Be Still,” a moving piece detailing the horrors of depression and suicide. Former Atholton students voiced over horrific stories of bullying as the dancers represented bystanders and senior Amelia Yasuda played a girl who tragically ended her own life.
“I enjoy being able to bring light to bullying, how awful it is, and how big of an effect it can have on people’s lives,” Yasuda, a Senior Company dancer, said. “Getting into the mindset is difficult, but coming out of it, at the end, with everybody giving so much love is very easy.”
While “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” played and Yasuda danced, over twenty dancers carried signs with words such as “ignorance,” “fear,” and “hate” across the stage and throughout the aisles. Yasuda frantically ran around the stage, replacing “ignorance” with “acceptance” and “hate” with “love.”
Junior Dance Company also exhibited their artistic talent by each wearing a letter on their shirt and creating words with their bodies from “fearless” to “beauty” to “unity.”
The dance concert isn’t created overnight. It takes weeks of preparation from both the dancers and Ms. Haffey. The dancers perform dress rehearsal the two nights prior to the
concert, according to Propst. “We do a little warm-up and a little pep talk,” she said. “Then we run all of our dance and cheer each other on.” Ms. Haffey works tirelessly to
prepare the concert and support her dancers. There are “a lot of long nights and no sleep but the end results are usually worth it,” she said.
This supportive atmosphere is not unique to the dance rehearsals; it is apparent throughout the entire dance community. Both Propst and Tye-teona Harding, another Junior Company dancer, called the dance program “one big family,” and raved about the support from Ms. Haffey. Yasuda agrees and love dance’s “warm, welcoming environment.” Ms. Haffey supports students as dancers and individuals. “I want them to be prepared as dancers, but if they are having a rough day sometimes that has to halt everything—we’re people first.”
Of course putting on a concert for hundreds of people comes with challenges, such as remembering all the dances and forgetting about the nerves, according to Harding. Nonetheless, Harding loves that her friends and family are able to witness the dancers’ months of hard work.
Many audience members appreciated the dancer’s rousing success. “My favorite part was definitely seeing my friends upthere,” said senior Abby Slaughter. “I know they put in a lot of work, but I can’t believe how unbelievable the dances were. I absolutely loved it.”