Scottish Ballet has High Springs students kicking their heels


Owen Thorne of the Scottish Ballet teach sixth, seventh and eighth grade students at High Springs Community School some dance moves Tuesday, October 8, 2013. (Doug Finger/The Gainesville Sun)

Doug Finger
Published: Tuesday, October 8, 2013 at 6:05 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, October 8, 2013 at 6:05 p.m.

As Owen Thorne moved his arms in a graceful arc at the front of High Springs Community School's gym Tuesday morning, 100 smaller arms mimicked him with varying degrees of success.

Facts

IF YOU GO:

Who: The Scottish Ballet

What: “A Streetcar Named Desire”

Where: Phillips Center for the Performing Arts

When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday

Cost: $28.50 to $54, or $10 for UF students

Thorne, a member of the Scottish Ballet, visited the school with company education officer Emma-Jane McHenry to do some outreach with students ahead of the company's production of "A Streetcar Named Desire," showing Thursday only at the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts.

The cast of 24 dancers and more than a dozen directors and tech staff stopped in Gainesville on their U.S. tour with its ballet adaptation of Tennessee Williams' beloved play.

"It's really beautiful," Thorne said of the ballet. "Everyone always cries."

The Scottish Ballet does outreach everywhere it travels, Thorne said. In the next few days, the company will visit Hoggetowne Middle School, Expressions Learning Arts Academy, homeschooling students and seniors in the Oak Hammock retirement community.

University of Florida Performing Arts tries to bring "any artist who's willing" into Alachua and Marion county schools, said Derek Wohlust, education coordinator for UFPA.

"There is almost no funding for arts" at the elementary and middle school level, Wohlust said, which is why UFPA focuses on bringing artists to interact with the younger students.

"We're trying to ignite some interest to inspire them," he said.

High Springs students displayed varying levels of interest.

The class started simply, with walking, jumping and balancing to get the students comfortable moving around the gym.

Then, the two dancers led the group of about 50 students through some calf stretches, shoulder rolls and a port de bras — a carriage of the arms through several positions.

Next, Thorne and McHenry taught a small section of choreography from "A Streetcar Named Desire."

Most of the students followed the dancers' movements intently, copying the steps as much as they could.

A few flailed their arms, then stood still, looking utterly dismayed that a dance class had overtaken their usual running-and-jumping period.

One boy asked assistant gym teacher Mike Hosey, "Why do I have to do this? I'm a dude!"

Plenty of the boys got into it after McHenry instructed the students to get into small groups and come up with six strong movements, which evolved into dance-fighting sequences played out enthusiastically by all of the students.

"I'm glad we don't have to run," said Stephen Roloff, 13, as he jumped around and mimed elbowing his friend in the ribs.

Savanna Clark and Taylor Mallard, both 12, practiced partner lifts and hitch kicks. They had picked up on the choreography earlier in the class, but neither of them take dance classes.

"We like to be ninjas," Savanna said as she executed a karate chop.

McHenry asked the students to start over with their made-up movements, but with passion.

"When you're dancing, you're telling a story," she said. "It's your power and your strength in the movement that tells the story."

The class ended with a few minutes of improvisation before the bell rang.

Thorne said the company is always glad when it can reach out to the community it's visiting.

"And it means it's not just the people who come to the performance that get a taste of it," McHenry said.

Contact Erin Jester at 338-3166 or erin.jester@gainesville.com.

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