The Buttner Auditorium stage glowed with a new passion and light not seen in decades with this past week’s dance showcase: Essential Joy. This year’s performance brought the familiar—elegant ballet and contemporary dance—while introducing a new vibrance to the program through jazz, Caribbean, Congolese, and hip-hop styles. Filled with roaring cheering, the celebratory energy from students, teachers, and parents alike was infectious, and all who attended were filled to their brims with pride and joy for their friends dancing their hearts out on stage.
Alicia Langlais, in her first year at College Prep, accomplished a feat described by alumni of the dance program as “the best dance show I’ve seen at CPS to date.” Whether inviting a guest drummer for the upbeat Congolese dance or donning and swaying in an elegant white Caribbean dress, Ms. Alicia incorporated world dance forms into the show, blending together art, culture, tradition, and joy for the audience and dancers alike to cherish.
Like any year, the process leading up to the Spring Showcase began in the fall, on the very first day of class. Immediately hitting the ground running, the dance department started exploring genres of salsa and contemporary dance, inviting local salsa teacher Hebert Aguilar to host a series of masterclasses introducing us to the genre. This attitude of diving head-first into new genres served us well in each class. Beginning, Intermediate, and Advanced each dove headfirst into genres that were unfamiliar to most of them. Beginning worked with an outside choreographer to learn the basics of Congolese dance. Intermediate focused on Caribbean dance in their song “Oye.” My (Julian Chen) class, Advanced Dance, spent February on hip-hop dance—the style I have the most experience with. Regardless, even the most accomplished dancers, having decades of experience under their belt, found new and exciting tools to add to their dance toolbelt.
Two weeks before curtains opened on Thursday, dancers began their staging process in preparation for the upcoming show. The big, burly tubes of Marley—vinyl used on dance floors—were hauled up by tired dance students and then meticulously taped and sealed onto the stage, diligently making sure there were no air bubbles or splinters left on the stage.
How well we accomplished the task is still up for debate, but regardless, the two weeks before the show, dancers started to buckle down. Spending their evenings tirelessly rehearsing, munching on fruit and snacks in the auditorium between songs, dancers dedicated their after-school time to perfecting, polishing, and performing their art. Staging rehearsals morphed into weekend tech rehearsals, and the end time of each rehearsal slowly transformed from 5:30 to 6:30 then to 8:30, the night prior to the show.
Once the show began, the audience found themselves transported to a new world of joy one moment then suddenly plunged into a world of grace and elegance. To avoid any awkward downtime between each dance, for the very first time, the dance department hired College Prep’s very own DJ Canuza (Ryan from the Tech Department) and made use of the SmartBoards flanking the left and right stage wings, displaying the names of each dance and the name of the choreographer (a very helpful addition for the audience, as reading the tiny programs in pitch blackness is very tough!).
After the background music faded and the dancers were already backstage, the opening act, "A Brand New Day," began. With a deep, groveling, movie-trailer-like introduction, a voice could be heard booming across the auditorium. “Are you ready? It’s Showtime!” the voice asked to raucous cheering that resonated from the first-day performance to the next.
If you didn’t get a chance to watch the show live, don’t worry! You can watch it on Google Drive or on YouTube. And if you are so inclined, get up, dance with us (maybe join us next year?), and have some Essential Joy!