Families, friends, and fans of dance gathered in the Little Theater on Dec. 9 and 10 to watch Berkeley High School’s 2023 Dance Production Winter Showcase. The production was themed around the idea of “A Night at the Movies” and an environment of support for all of the student dancers and first-time choreographers was tangible.
“My dancers took this vision that I had and they made (it into) a whole performance … I feel really proud of how it came out,” said Madeline Mendelez-Garcia, a junior in Dance Production, whose first experience choreographing was for the production.
The Dance Production class’ biannual performances always feature original numbers and choreography, but this show placed a particular emphasis on its theme. The whole show was centered around the “at the movies” concept, from the performances themselves to the 3D glasses being handed out at the entrance.
Jasmine Taylor, a sophomore at BHS who watched the Friday show, said, “I knew what was going on because I know the movies, so I could connect to it more.” The choice of theme not only made the show entertaining but also created a sense of familiarity, allowing the audience to connect more deeply with the performances and appreciate the connections to cinematic culture.
“I think (the theme) made the whole show a little more whimsical.” said Rose Levine, a sophomore in advanced dance.
The performances themselves were based on popular movies. Mendelez-Garcia’s choreography was based on the movie “Dirty Dancing”, and they drew inspiration from the film’s themes. “A lot of the partner work that I was trying to portray was (based on someone) changing a girl’s world by teaching her how to dance,” they said.
However, as well as directly referencing movies, some numbers went beyond specific movie narratives and focused instead on nuances of the movie industry itself. Dances such as “Behind the Curtain” (choreographed by Natasha Bell) and “Animation” (choreographed by Kayla Hess) explored behind-the-scenes themes of movie-making, which made the entire show feel more dynamic.
The dance styles also varied depending on the movies they were based on. “Incredible” (choreographed by Linda Carr) was action-packed with energetic choreography that featured jumps and cartwheels set to upbeat music, which matched the fast-paced action sequences from the film. On the other hand, “Animation” (choreographed by Kayla Hess) featured graceful and precise movements and slower music to match the delicate art style. These contrasting dance styles not only showcased the versatility of the performers but also balanced the performance as a whole.
The network of dancers at BHS is very collaborative and community-centered, virtues which show up on the stage. The Showcase features juniors and seniors in the dance production class, as well as freshmen in beginning dance and sophomores in advanced dance, serving as a way for the whole school to come together. “It was a really nice way to combine all the grades. It was really fun,” said Levine.
A lot of work goes into getting a production like this one to stage. “Rehearsing took up so much time,” said Mendelez-Garcia, who had to postpone other extracurricular commitments. But the efforts of all the dancers did not go to waste. “It really paid off … The satisfaction I saw in (the dancers) after the show – you can’t get anywhere else,” said Mendelez-Garcia.
“The reason I love this is because you really have to have some faith, and it is a huge act of courage along the way. It’s all about believing in the process, and then having faith that it will happen,” said Linda Carr, the Dance Director and main producer.