Gotta Dance!

Last night, we went to the annual Van Nuys High School Student and Faculty Dance Production. It was spectacular.

Let me start out by noting that Van Nuys is a Performing Arts magnet within the larger high school (the other magnets in the school are Math/Science and Medical). But their theatrical program has been hampered by a poor teacher and weak productions. Thus, the dramatic skills of these young adults doesn’t come across as well as it could on the stage. The theatrical production attempts to showcase more broad comedic skills (farce in the winter, musical in the summer). The dance production, on the other hand, contained more professional quality dramatic expression and quality acting than I have seen in ages. This is a tribute to their instructor and his professionalism.

The program consisted of three acts: the first (shall we call it “Act 0”) was a “senior spotlight”, which gave each of the graduating seniors a chance to present an individual performance. Almost all of these were uniformely excellent; the ones that weren’t fell into the “pretty damn good” category. Performances of particular note were “Hurt”, performed and choreographed by Christine Dominguez; “Liberian Girl” performed by Joseph Gurrola and Quinn Harris, choreographed by Quinn Harris; “Bold As Love”, performed and choreographed by Adela Pineda; “John Wayne Gacy, Jr.”, performed and choreographed by Mikel Bossette; and “Just Testing”, performed and choreographed by Kian Khiahan. Of these, I’d like to highlight three particular performers: Joseph Gurrola showed remarkable form and finesse and strength in his movements, and was just a remarkable dancer; Mikel Bossette has demonstrated herself to be a triple threat — she can act, she can sing, and boy can she dance — and I hope she goes far in the theatrical world; and Kian Khiahan, who had a remarkably improvised technopop routine that was just mesmerizing in its movement. All seniors in this program will go far.

Act I consisted of 12 pieces. Not all of them stick in my mind, although I enjoyed all of them during the performances. The ones that I particular remember were “Holding Out for a Hero”, dones by the entire VNHS Jazz Dance Team, choreographed by Mike Nakauchi; “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, performed and choreographed by Diana Flores; and “And So It Is”, the faculty performance, performed and choreographed by Mike Nakauchi. The fact that I did not list a performance here doesn’t mean it wasn’t excellent — rather, it means that the morning after the production I can’t match the names of the pieces to the performances.

Act II also consisted of 12 performances. Again, ones that I particularly remember were “The Calling”, choreographed by Mikel Bossette and performed by Mikel Bossette, Stephanie Hoston, April Machado, and Julia Rachilewski; “For You”, and extremely touching and powerful piece performed and choreographed by Joseph Gurrola; “Expression of the Subconscious”, performed and choreographed by Quinn Harris, “Shikdum-A Night in Bollywood”, performed and choreographed by Fariba Toha, and “Burn”, choreographed by Mike Nakauchi and performed by the Jazz Dance Team (although I found the music, by Nine Inch Nails, a bit loud on that one). However, as I noted before, just because I didn’t list a performance doesn’t mean it was poor — it means my memory is bad.

The VNHS dancers consisted of the following young adults (* indicates seniors): Beginner Dance: Nora Adamian*, Omary Aguilar, Arielle Bell, Lara Bersabal, Sheila Carlos, Jennifer Casas, Layla Chatthoranongsak, Annie Chareonsin*, Catherine Corea, Dani DeMond, Melissa Gestopa, Sydney Green, Diana Grigoryan, Lubaba Khan, Ariel Kostrzewski, Glessy Magaling, Ariana Martinez, Mayra Martinez, Trammy Nguyen, Eddie Perdomo, Juliene Picart, Jackee Rico, Christina Soldano, Katie Swanson. Intermediate/Advanced Dance: Kimberly Alegria*, BGreanna Burnette, Jessica Castañeda, Heidy Contreras, Ma Christina De La Rosa*, Chiza Eze, Annie Gaspar, John Geronnilla*, Tim Glick*, Melissa Larios, Marooshka Noronha*, Deeanna Padilla, Yadira Pulido, Justine Daphne Regala*, Sarah Smith, Paulo Tadle. Hip Hop Dance Team: Kimberly Alegria*, Jessica Casteneda, Joseph Cayanan, Layla Chatthoranongsak, Natalie Chavez, Stephenie DeCastro* (co-captain), Christina De La Rosa*, Charmaine Ramos* (co-captain), Justine Regala*, Paulo Dadle, Mary-Jannie Taylor. Jazz Dance Team: Christine Dominguez* (captain), Diana Flores*, Hasmik Fndryan, Romina Karla Gonzalez, Mireya Gonzalez*, Joseph Gurrola*, Jamie Quinn Harris*, Marissa Perplies, Gloria Roca, Zoe Shiovitz* (co-captain), Mary-Jannie Taylor, Maya Wright.

The performances were enhanced and amplified by the remarkable design work of the VNHS Technical Theatre Crew, led by Marque Coy (faculty). Moving lights were designed and operated by Josh Price and Cody Banks. Conventional lights were designed and operated by Shaunna Lucas and Erin Faigin. Spotlights were operated by Leslie Montano and Patty Ponce. Sound was by Emily Tugwell and Christopher Chesler. Some particular items in this area I remember were the incredibly beautiful background lights; the strong use of silhouettes for dancers; some of the moving light effects; and how in some numbers the sound seemed to move around the stage.

You can see a YouTube of the bows here, and it has links to some of the other specific performances.

Upcoming Theatre: This afternoon our theatre continues with “big” at West Coast Ensemble, to be followed by “The Green Room at Hermosa Beach Playhouse on May 24 @ 7:00pm. The end of May (May 28, 29, 30) brings Fiddler on the Roof” at Nobel Middle School. June 20 @ 8pm is “The Little Foxes” at The Pasadena Playhouse. Lastly, July 11 will bring “Fat Pig” at Repertory East Playhouse. Based on the reviews, we’ve decided to take a pass on “Marry Me a Little/The Last 5 Years” at East/West Players. Other shows pending scheduling and ticketing include “Spamalot” at the Ahmanson (7/7-9/6/09), the “Guys and Dolls” concert at the Hollywood Bowl (7/31-8/2/09), and Liza Minelli at the Hollywood Bowl (8/28-8/29/09). Also of potential interest are: “Setup and Punch” at The Blank Theatre Company (LAStageTix) (5/14-6/21/09); “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” at the Neighborhood Playhouse (Venue Goldstar) (7/9-7/26/09); “Breaking the Code” at The Production Company in North Hollywood (5/15-6/20/09) (on LAStageTix, Venue Goldstar) (with “Equus” over the summer); and “The Apple Tree” at Crown City Theatre in North Hollywood (6/5-6/28/09) (LAStageTix). I’m also always looking for interesting productions on Goldstar and LA Stage Tix.