Niki Greene, age 14, is brimming with excitement as she talks about her upcoming performance with the Island Dance Performing Team.
Greene has been with the school since the age of five; this is her first year on the team, an opportunity she’s had her sights on for over two years.
“Everything fell into place,” she said.
Greene will be joining fellow Island Dance Performing Team members and guests at the upcoming annual Other Moves dance showcase, which features a variety of dance styles ranging from hip hop to lyrical, jazz and contemporary.
Performances will take place at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 21 at the South Whidbey High School Auditorium Theater.
In addition to it being a venue for community members and Island Dance performers to take to the stage to demonstrate their artistry, the showcase is a major fundraiser for the performing team.
Funds raised from the event will be used to offset the costs of competitions throughout the year. They include travel expenses, entrance fees and costumes.
Jamee Pitts, artistic director and choreographer, stressed that the team is less focused on winning competitions and more upon building the dancers’ skill sets and showcasing their teamwork, tenacity and passion.
“We aren’t going there and saying, ‘I’m going to win first place; I’m going to win double-platinum,’ ” Pitts said. “We’re going and saying, ‘I’m going to share my gift and my love for dance; and I’m going to share my story with the audience; and I can’t wait to get the judges’ critique to better myself.’ ”
The team was created by Susan Vanderwood as a means for intermediate dancers who were not quite ready to join the professional Whidbey Island Dance Theater company to get a little more out of the school, a sort of “next edge,” towards a dance career.
Competition was never really the focus, which Pitts says is somewhat unique to Island Dance due to it being home to a school, professional dance company and performance team rather than one of these alone.
Pitts has been dancing since age three, and has been the director of the performance team for five years.
Her teaching style and philosophy are indicative of her emphasis upon education and artistry, as is her bond with the girls.
“She’s not like any ordinary teacher,” said Chyler White, age 11. White explained that Pitts’ patience and sense of humor are two of the qualities which make her a good teacher.
White has been dancing with the school since age three, and joined the team two years ago.
Thus far, she estimates she’s been in about seven competitions, including nationals in 2014.
“It was really exciting, and really fun,” she said of the nationals competition. “We got to go to California, and I got to share that experience with the whole team.”
It was the first time Pitts had taken the team to a national competition.
“It was definitely an experience,” said Pitts, explaining that if she is to take the team to a future national event, she will likely choose one less competition centric, a more educational and “convention-based” event.
Pitts began teaching and choreographing at the age of 16, and said that in innumerable ways, dancing has guided her throughout her life.
“I would jokingly say it is free counseling,” Pitts said.
“Dance helped me grow up,” she added.
For White, too, dance has been a boon to her personal growth.
She’s always been a bit shy, she said, and joining the team has helped her to enhance both her performance and social skills. She said that this is largely due to the team’s close-knit structure.
“That’s the best part about it,” she said.
Her styles of choice are lyrical and contemporary, both of which require “a lot of emotion” in order to portray the character and convey the message associated with the dance.
Greene and White also said they particularly enjoy the lyrical style, which they demonstrated during class Thursday evening.
Greene explained that the style is characterized as being similar to ballet with additional jazz and modern influences.
“I like to make it more personal … so that I can project with my own story,” she said.
White noted that the style evokes a “good vibe,” and concurred that it is an avenue of emotional expression.
“It’s important that my pieces have a strong message, and can really reach the audience and touch somebody,” said Pitts of her choreography.
Pitts choreographed 12 dances for Other Movies including nine for the performing team, as well as two for the South Whidbey High School show choir “Music in Motion,” and another, a duet for herself and a fellow teacher.
Danielle Wilkins and Daniel Wilkins and Christine Monaghan also choreographed pieces, as did Marta Mulholland, who will perform her aerial ribbon act.
Tickets cost $12 in advance and $15 at the door and can be purchased in advance at Island Dance and Gymnastics by calling 360-341-1282 or at the office at 714 Camano Ave.