At Seabury's 19th annual Christmas Party/Performing Arts Concert last weekend, director David Ward let the audience in on a little secret: the performing arts program at Seabury Hall is not all glitz and glamour. In fact, it's a whole lot of sweat.
To prove it, Ward led four levels of dance through a "mini-class" of stretches and fast-paced routines, performing the moves right alongside his talented students while keeping up a running commentary - and wearing a suit and tie. We practically broke a sweat just watching!
"I just want you to understand how much work these kids put into what they do," a breathless Ward told us at the end of the piece.
It was a valuable lesson, as most of the time the students make what they do look easy. Like the vibrant "Jai Ho," choreographed by Ward (from the movie "Slumdog Millionaire"), in which the Level C dancers whirled and spun in flowing brightly-colored pants with gold headbands - missing only the ankle bells to make it feel straight out of Bollywood.
The evening's prize for the most impressive display of focus went to language teacher Denise Lionetti and her 7th- and 8th-grade salsa class with "Rueda de Casino."
"This is completely improv," Lionetti told the audience beforehand. "The kids have no idea what move is coming next!" They could've fooled us. As Lionetti called out each dance move in Spanish, the students were right there with her, never missing a beat.
There was also evidence of what Ward called "wonderful budding talent coming up the ranks," as middle school drama students Sophie Janssen, Taka Tsutsui and Zeb Mehring performed comical excerpts from "Once Upon a Mattress," directed by Marsha Kelly.
The Christmas Party was punctuated with some fine vocal performances, notably Sydney Roberts and Clyde Engle performing a strong "As Long As You're Mine" from the musical "Wicked"; and a touching duet titled "For Good" by the talented Bradley sisters, Mirabel (graduated and returned) and Tatiana - both songs accompanied by Stephen Haines.
Two multitalented students demonstrated their prowess in not only singing, dancing and acting, but also in playing a musical instrument, and even songwriting. Kelsey Greenway sang her own composition titled "Just Believe" while accompanying herself on guitar; and Skyla Lowery played piano and sang "What Child Is This," accompanied by her mentor Alan Hodara.
The show's guest choreographers were kumu hula Napua Greig Makua, who created the beautiful "Ka'oionapua," which the Seabury Hall Dance Ensemble will perform in the 10th National High School Dance Festival in March; and Seabury alum Brianna Skellie, who put together a piece called "Formation" which the ensemble performed with mechanical-doll-like precision.
Ward and his fellow Seabury choreographers Andre Morissette and Vanessa Cerrito demonstrated once again their endless talent for creating pieces that do it all - tell a story, make you laugh, and make you say, "Wow!"
Like Morissette's "8th Period": wearing plaid schoolgirl skirts and knee socks, the Level B dancers adeptly rearranged their chairs into different formations, while yawning, stretching, giggling, even cartwheeling. Or Cerrito's "The Awakening": a clueless man (Miles Kelsey) dressed all in white was transformed by a fluttering posse of colorful kimono-clad women. Or Ward's lovely "Middle Eastern Reverie": the Dance Ensemble whirled shimmery screens over their heads, then carried earthen pots of blue clay to a silken "river" where they painted their hands, arms and faces.
The evening wrapped up with the amazing "Tango, Y No" choreographed by Ward and performed by the Dance Ensemble. The suite of five dances blended skillful moves with groan-worthy clichs - an impassioned duet between a man and a woman (Miles Kelsey and Julianna Mello) was followed by the men (Kelsey, Kai Spence and Drew Streb) dancing with roses clenched between their teeth.
The Seabury Hall performers may work up a sweat, but they sure know how to make it look like fun.