Dance to the Max

Last night, we went to the final performance of the Van Nuys High School Dance Department production “Momentum”. This production featured a number of student- or teacher- choreographed dances from both the beginning and advanced dance classes, as well as specific productions that were auditioned by dance members, productions from the VNHS Jazz and VNHS Hip-Hop Dance Teams, and (Saturday night only) the Senior Spotlight.

I’ll start with some general observations.

First, in terms of dance, all of the productions were spectacular. The talent that these young adults have is remarkable, and if you have the opportunity to see a production any any of the VNHS dance groups, it is well worth watching. These kids poured their hearts, souls, and energy into these dances, and it showed. Most of the dances were more of the modern interpretive form.

Second, in terms of music… I’m tempted to say “the music they listen to these days, it’s just noise”. It may be or it may not be, but any music blasted at arena concert volumes in a high-school auditorium is noise; that is, it was too loud to be appreciated as music and detracted from the dancers. I also don’t think it showed a wide variety—much of it was very similar. It would have been nice to have seen a larger range, which would have shown off interpretive ability better. Musical artists represented included Missy Higgins, Passion Pit, Anjalie, Leona Lewis, J. Holiday, Usher, A.R. Rahman featuring Nicole Scherzinger, Charlotte Martin, Emmy Rossum, Moloko, 3oh!3 feat, Sarah Bareilles, Kate Nash, Christina Aguilere, Kleerup, Se7en, Janet Jackson, Claude Kelly, Jem, Kate Bush, Brazilian Girls, DJ Arafat, and others.

Third: the audience. One gets the feeling that high-school audiences have never attended live arts performances before, for they are constantly screaming out their kids/friends names at the top of their voices, usually into the ears of the people sitting in front of them, who are already shell-shocked from the volume of the music. Give your kids flowers, but please, please, please don’t scream. Your kids are doing professional quality work—treat them like professionals would be treated. Your being there is what shows you that you love them, not your screams.

Now, on to some specific observations. If I had to pick particular favorites from this program (which is hard becaue there are so many different routines it is hard to memorize them seeing them only once), I would choose the following:

  • 90s. I liked this because of the humor and variety of the dance. Normally, I’m not a fan of hip-hop, but this one really made it accessible. [Choreography: Stephanie DeCastro, Aliem Jiles, Joseph Cayanan. Music: Various. Performers: Hip Hop Dance Team]
  • Skeleton. I can’t remember the specifics of this one, but I did mark it down in my program as liking it. [Choreography: Joseph Gurrola. Music: Kate Nash. Performers: Karla Gonzales, Gloria Roca, Mary-Jannie Taylor, Maya Wright]
  • Candyman. This one was traditional tap, and I have a soft spot in my heart for tap dance. I’d love to see VNHS do more tap and stepping. [Choreography: Tatyana Saldaña. Music: Christina Aguilera. Performer: Tatyana Saldaña]
  • Gummi Bears. I remember that this one told the story of some couples, and featured playful dance competitions. [Choreography: Stephen Park, Layla Chatthoranongsak. Music: Se7en, Cassie, Cameo, Janet Jackson. Performers: Regine Bautista, Rachel Chin, Anthony Lee, Stephen Park, Kris Rodriguez]
  • Daughters. This one told the story of parents and daughters, and featured some touching music. The only problem was technical: the lighting crew forgot to turn off the moving lights, and the movement of the heads was very distracting. [Choreography: Jessica Castañeda, Paulo Tadle. Music: John Mayer. Performers: Jessica Castañeda, Paulo Tadle. ]
  • Le Show. This one was nice because it used some unique music and unique dance styles. [Choreography: Chiza Eze. Music: DJ Arafat. Performer: Chiza Eze]
  • Momentum. This one was good not just because my daughter was in it, but because it was highly energetic and varied. [Choreography: Mike Nakauchi. Music: Laurie Anderson, De La Guarda, Wimme, Damon Albarn, Michael Nyman, Fuerzabruta. Performers: Deeanna Padilla, Advance and Beginner Dancers]

As for the overall dance credits, here’s the list of names (2: year 2; 3: year 3; 4: year 4; *: graduating senior): Beginning Dance: Myelle Bossette2, Catherine Corea2,*, Cladellain David, Manu Dwivedi, Erin Faigin2, Jade Field, Erin Geronimi2, Sophia Ghov*, Joanna Guzman, Matthew Golden, Ariel Kostrzewski2, Mayra Martinez2, Thomas O’Hara, Kayla Smietanka*, Katie Swanson2,*. Intermediate/Advanced Dance: Margarita Abramsky, Jessica Castañeda4,*, Angela Do, Alex Geronilla, Cyrine Madrona3, Deeanna Padillo3,*, Paulo Tadle4,*, Andrea Vargas3. Hip Hop Dance Team: Arielle Bell, Lara Bersabal, Breanna Burnette*, Jessica Castañeda* [Captain], Layla Chatthoranongsak, Kristina, Diwa, Karla Gonzalez*, Taylor Leflore, Amanda Molano, Sarah Morales*, Steven Park*, Gloria Roca*, Tatyana Saldaña, Ronamae Septimo, Azy Sinanyan*, Paulo Tadle* [Co-Captain], Mary-Jannie Taylor*, Maya Wright*. Jazz Dance Team: Breanna Burnette*, Hasmik Fndryan*, Romina Karla Gonzalez*, Sarah Morales*, Marissa Perplies*, Gloria Roca*, Tatyana Saldaña, Azy Sinanyan*, Mary-Jannie Taylor* [Co-Captain], Maya Wright* [Captain], Dixie Zelaya.

You can see one of the routines, “Falling”, here. I’m sure others will show up on YouTube.

As for the technical side: This was done by the usual suspects, who had the usual problems. I was particularly annoyed by the movers that kepts moving during some numbers for no purpose. I was also told that there were some egregious mis-cues on the lights. I also think the sound was way too loud.

Upcoming Theatre and Dance. Next weekend brings the Bat Mitzvah of a family friend, as well as “The Wedding Singer” at Repertory East Playhouse in Newhall (May 30 @ 2pm). June starts with “Peter Pan” at Nobel Middle School (June 3-5—we’re going June 5) and the “One Acts Plays” at Van Nuys High (June 2-4—we’re going June 4) [again, nsshere is acting in the One Acts], as well as the legacy tour of Merce Cunningham at the Walt Disney Concert Hall (June 6 @ 2pm) for Karen and Erin, and the new “Meeting of Minds” (Steve Allen (host) [Jack Maxwell], Congressional Medal of Honor winner Smedley Darlington Butler [Dan Lauria], Medal of Honor recipient and Civil War Doctor Mary Edwards Walker [Wendie Malick], Saint Patrick of Ireland [Jim Handy], and Saint Joan of Arc [Stana Katic]) at Greenway Court Theater for me (June 6 @ 6pm). Whew! A busy weekend. But, as there’s no rest for the wicked, June 13 brings “South Pacific” at the Ahmanson, with the regularly scheduled June “Meeting of Minds” (Episode #10: Voltaire (Ray Abruzzo); Martin Luther (Mark Moses); Plato; Florence Nightingale [Sharon Lawrence]; with Steve Allen (Gary Cole) hosting) on June 20. As for July, the month starts with “In The Heights” at the Pantages on July 3, and the Western Corps Connection in Riverside on July 5. The next weekend (July 10 @ 8pm) is the first show of the 2010-2011 Colony season, “Grace & Glorie”. That weekend may also bring “It’s Top Secret”, a musical that is part of the Festival of New American Musicals, running Jun 19-July 18 at the NoHo Arts Center (likely July 11). It may also bring “CHiPS: The Musical” at the Falcon Theatre (pending ticketing). The remainder of July brings ; The Last Days of Judas Iscariot” at REP East on July 17 (pending ticketing); the July “Meeting of Minds on July 18, and Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella” at Cabrillo Music Theatre on July 24. Plus July will possibly bring some ventures out to the Hollywood Bowl. Lastly, looking to August, we will hopefully find “Rent” at the Hollywood Bowl (pending ticketing); “Young Frankenstein” at the Pantages, the August “Meeting of Minds”, and “Side Man” at REP East.

As always: live theatre is a gift and a unique experience, unlike a movie. It is vitally important in these times that you support your local arts institutions. If you can afford to go to the movies, you can afford to go to theatre. If you need help finding ways, just drop me a note and I’ll teach you some tricks. Lastly, I’ll note that nobody paid me anything to write this review. In fact, I receive no remuneration for any reviews I write.