Island Dance leaps into contemporary for combined performance

Dancers across the island are combining the energy of competition with the strength of technique for the first time in the upcoming performance INFUSION of Dance.

Madyson Hunter and Faith O’Brochta rehearse a company dance piece by choreographer Aaron Cash to be performed Feb. 28

Dancers across the island are combining the energy of competition with the strength of technique for the first time in the upcoming performance INFUSION of Dance.

Whidbey Island Dance Theatre and Island Dance Performing Team are teaming up next weekend for the performance, which features 20 pieces.

The performance covers the work of choreographers Aaron Cash, Amy (Berto) Lehman, Jamee (Brown) Pitts and Daniel Wilkins. Dancers will perform solos, small group pieces and pieces from recent competitions.

By combining the talents of dancers from both arenas, Amy Lehman, assistant artistic director of the dance theatre, hopes to enhance the performance for the audience.

“We know who our audience is and we want to kind of maximize their experience … and see both groups in one main venue,” she said.

Lehman said keeping the students together in one performance also helps them perform.

“Both learn from each other. The competition girls have the performance thing down. They can really wow judges … When mixing with company girls, it raises the bar technique-wise.”

Students in the dance theatre had a lively rehearsal with Cash earlier this month. He spent the weekend teaching the students and created two original pieces for the company dancers and alumnae performance. Cash’s work includes dancing with musical artist Cher, Mikhail Baryshnikov and Twyla Tharp. Currently, he is a judge on “So You Think You Can Dance Australia.”

This was Cash’s fourth time visiting the Langley studio.

Island Dance is similar to the school he learned dance from, he said, and each year draws him back for more.

Cash said students at the studio have a good technical base, are trained well, and most importantly — he can see they love to dance.

“In dance you have to fall in love with it, otherwise what’s the point?” he said.

Students Kiana Henny and Madyson Hunter agreed Cash’s class was a welcome experience.

The style is different from what the students are used to in regular dance classes, Madyson said.

“The choreography is dynamic,” Kiana said. “It’s exciting.”

One piece by Pitts, called “If We Hold on Together,” won the highest honor in its division at the team’s first competition of the year, called Rainbow National Dance Competition. The piece will be featured in an upcoming performance as well.

The show will also feature a piece with 10 alumnae dancers, including current teachers such as Lehmann and Pitts. The segment, choreographed by Cash, is one of Lehman’s favorite parts of the show, she said. This is the fourth year of including a dance by former students and for Lehman, it’s one of the toughest, performance-wise.

With strong, natural performers such as Susan Vanderwood and Karli Hunter, Lehman said they easily steal the show in the alumnae dance.

The piece is also a hit with students who get to see their teachers perform, sometimes for the first time. Lehman, who teaches ballet, remembered one student last year approached her and said, “I didn’t know you did that kind of dancing too,” referring to the dance’s contemporary style.

From teachers and alumnae to competitors and performers, each dancer holds their place on stage, and with the combined performance, each has the opportunity to grow.

“[The dancers] can learn from each other, and are having fun watching each other perform,” Lehman said.


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