Dancers wow gym full of young students
Published: Tuesday, December 4, 2012 at 6:20 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, December 4, 2012 at 6:20 p.m.
The dancers of the Trey McIntyre Project will headline at the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts Wednesday evening, but Tuesday they pirouetted across the scuffed floor of a school gymnasium.
They performed routines and hosted a Q-and-A session with about 145 students at High Springs Community School on Tuesday as part of a University of Florida Performing Arts outreach effort.
Derek Wohlust, education coordinator for UF Performing Arts, said he likes sending performers to elementary and middle schools because it gives children a chance to be inspired by and learn about art — an increasingly scarce opportunity as school arts programs shrink.
“I think it’s an opportunity for these kids to experience something they normally wouldn’t be able to and hopefully to inspire them to find out more,” he said.
The Trey McIntyre Project, a nonprofit helmed by choreographer Trey McIntyre and based in Boise, Idaho, has performed at the Phillips Center twice before, and today will take the stage for the third time.
The dance company’s performers visited the High Springs school, which includes elementary and middle school students, after an earlier performance at the Expressions Learning Arts Academy in Gainesville.
The children, sitting beneath hanging basketball hoops along one wall of the gym, applauded for each piece the nine dancers performed and laughed at some of their herky-jerky moves.
The end of one duet got most of the group giggling as a male dancer tried to follow his partner after she ran in between two other performers, only to be hoisted up by the men instead. He hung there for a moment, his legs racing through the air but unable to reach the ground.
Sixth-graders Trinity Todd and Aniya Cottrell, both 11, said that was one of their favorite parts.
“I liked it. It was, like, creative,” Trinity said of the performance. “They did all this funny stuff.”
Aniya said the most interesting thing she learned was that dancers perform on a special stage that helps protect them from injury.
During the hour-long event, Christina Johnson, the troupe’s rehearsal director, sprinkled in educational tidbits like that in between performances. She talked about the dancers’ rigorous training regimen, which requires rehearsals for five or six hours a day. Later, the dancers demonstrated basic ballet moves for the students.
“Seems pretty simple, right?” dancer Chanel DaSilva asked them, getting a “yeah” from a boy on the bleachers. “Well, it’s harder than it looks.”
The dancers invited some girls to try it themselves. Six volunteers mirrored the professionals’ moves as they lifted a leg behind them and spun around as gracefully as they could.
Then it was the boys’ turn. Several hands shot up while others pointed at their friends as they laughed and chattered.
Seven students joined the dancers this time, bending their knees and trying to keep their backs straight as they performed plies before springing up into a full spin.
Students later asked about costuming, dance routines and whether boys wear ballet pointe shoes. (Not typically.)
After the performance, a pack of students walked over to thank the dancers for coming.
“It was magnificent,” one boy said as he passed them.
Another girl walked up to DaSilva and quietly told her she wanted to learn to dance now.
DaSilva said she and her fellow performers regularly make school visits when they’re touring.
“It’s hard to tell when we’re doing it if it’s impactful, but then stuff like this happens,” DaSilva said as the girl walked away.
Contact Morgan Watkins at 338-3104 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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