All the slick, clever high school musicals on movie and TV screens these days can't compare with the innocent, infectious energy of real kids doing the real thing. As the school year comes to an end with happy new productions at Baldwin and King Kekaulike, Seabury Hall's 22nd annual Dance Showcase presented almost three hours of the kids' enthusiasm, skills and high hopes for the last two weekends.
Director David Ward, the guiding force behind Seabury's dance program, stamped the program with his award-winning choreography and fondness for vintage movie and Broadway musicals. Andr Morissette, Vanessa Cerrito and Julane Stiles also contributed memorable choreography to the upbeat show. By evening's end, it was easy to spot each's choreographic signature, and Cerrito also took the stage as the featured dancer in the innovative, movie-inspired "Cinema Italiano," making the production a highlight of the evening - one of many.
Members of The Seabury Dance Ensemble -featuring the program's most accomplished dancers - got things under way with a Western-flavored "Homage to Agnes," recalling the bold, Americana stylings of Agnes de Mille.
Ariella Brandon and Miles Kelsey in “Homage to Agnes.”
ERIC ROLPH photo
The ensemble -Ariella Brandon, Clyde Engle, Scarlett Engle, Austin Howlett, Darcy Keester, Miles Kelsey, Jeremy Morton, Isabelle Olivit, Sydney Roberts, Amy Singleton, Charae Tongg, Juliana Warne, Makena Wright and Fern Young -returned through the evening for the program's most ambitious and affecting works. Besides "Cinema Italiano," these included the colorful tribal moves of "Afro Fusion"; Ward's haunting meditation on homelessness and loneliness, "America's Shadow"; and video and live farewells to its senior members.
But the program also made room for the younger dancers in cute vignettes that utilized Morisette and Cerrito's talents in the costume department. Among them were the shaggy blue-wigged, catlike creatures of Morisette's "Tainted Love"; the pose-striking disco types in his "Macy's By Night"; the Elvis-era boppers to Ward's "Blue Suede Shoes"; the "West Side Story"-inspired ballerinas of Cerrito's irresistible "I Feel Pretty" and the Guys and Dolls of Morisette's "Crapshooter's Dance."
"A Chorus Line" set the tone for the third act, with Stiles reimagining both "I Hope I Get It" and the singular sensation of "One," pushing the dancers to new heights.
The evening made room for impressive solo artistry by Ariella Brandon and Miles Kelsey, tackling Ward's award-winning "Silver Spoon." Kelsey Greenway demonstrated her talents as both dancer and singer. Sydney Roberts and Clyde Engle as a memorable Phantom also shined in the vocal portions of the show.
The music supplemented its Broadway roots with a broad spectrum, from folk singer Woody Guthrie to the stylings of Madonna, Macy Gray, Angelo Kidjo, the Beatles and others.
Similarly, the dancing encompassed modern and ballet, Broadway chestnuts and contemporary experiments. While the talents and training of some of the performers were impressive, the concert also made room for the guiless enthusiasm of others onstage.
While the showcase may be the first step in careers for a few of the performers, it will be a culminating memory for many more. The innocence of this moment in their lives, a world vibrantly alive with awakenings in the passage from childhood, will be the source of shining memories of what they did for love. - Rick Chatenever