BHS Spring Dance production show nurtures innovation and joy


The theater lights dimmed and the stage lights glowed as the Dance Production (DP) students took to the stage on Friday, April 26, 2024, for the first night of Berkeley High School’s 2024 Dance Production Spring Show. The group opened by dancing to the song “If The Love Goes (Coflo edit)” choreographed by guest artists Rama Mashesh Hall and Michaela Hlinkova. As the beats vibrated through the air, they were matched by the roar of the audience cheering throughout the theater supporting dancers. “(Hearing the crowd cheer) felt really good and reinforced that the audience was enjoying what I was doing onstage … which I could channel into my dancing,” BHS senior and DP student Kayla Hess said.

Unlike the movie themed Winter Showcase last year, this semester’s production had no single theme. Instead, it featured a variety of dances ranging from emotional pieces to sassy, hip-hop numbers that had the audience dancing along in their seats. “(The theme) was easier for me because I had multiple ideas and I didn’t have to mold them to anything specific,” Meilin Jokela a BHS senior said, “In my solo I was able to build on a story I started last year in ADL  (Advanced Dance Lab) and experiment with my relationship to the audience as a performer.” Jokela is in DP who choreographed “Thank You” as a follow up to their solo “Self” from ADL last year.

As usual, the vast majority of the show consisted of dances choreographed by Dance Production students, allowing them to showcase their creativity. For instance, “Lock and Key,” choreographed by Ella Howard and Teagan Duffy — performed to the haunting yet soulful music of Hozier’s “Work Song” — played around with lighting to create silhouettes against the backdrop of the desert sun, forming captivating visuals that conveyed the song’s theme of love and longing. 

“Expansive,” choreographed by Hess and Natasha Bell and set to Joel Sunny’s heartfelt violin piece, “Luminary,” was inspired by the vastness of outer space. It showcased a variety of lifts and spins to represent orbits and the idea that “everything in the universe interacts in some way,” matching the sense of adventure conveyed by the music. “Natasha came up with the original concept and the first 30 seconds of choreography and then we choreographed everything together aside from the last 30 seconds which I choreographed and then taught to her … choreographing with another person was really helpful because when one of us didn’t have an idea the other one usually did,” Hess said.

Although each piece varied significantly, they all showcased the collaborative spirit of the Dance Production community with each individual playing their part to bring the entire dance to life, regardless of who choreographed the piece. “In the last weeks of rehearsal people were reviewing in the corners of the gym and putting together last minute meetings to finish off dances. During tech the backstage environment was supportive and fun, and we practiced together while joking around and encouraging each other,” Jokela said.

Although the show only ran for two nights, it required a lot of hard work and dedication to bring to the stage. From lunch rehearsal to fine tuning choreography on the fly, students put immense effort into their performances, often at the expense of their free time. Even so, Hess loved the experience. “I liked how Dance Production really allowed each dancer to make a piece that highlighted their style and show their unique dance talent. It made the show a lot more interesting than dance shows I’ve been in outside of school, which are mostly uniform as the dances are created by just a few teachers,” Hess said.  

After 15 unique dances, the show drew to a close with one last group piece titled “Fiesta Latina” to match the song: Pete Rodriguez’ “I Like it Like That,” which features classic upbeat salsa music. Choreographed by guest artist and BHS Dance alumn Iris Pierre, the dance radiated joy, with students dancing in pairs dressed in colorful skirts and suits and smiling at each other.  

“There was so much obvious talent and the dances were incredible. I’m amazed that people my age could both create and perform such beautiful pieces,” audience member and BHS student Savannah Johnson said.