Modern dancing should tell a story, and 17 Island Dance students are ready to spin a tale.
Fresh off a national competition first-place award and several other accolades, Island Dance’s performing team will show off its steps for a hometown crowd Saturday during its Other Moves performance. The event is a fundraiser for the performing team, which travels across the state and beyond for competitions.
The teen and senior team of five dancers, age 13-17, claimed a double platinum score and won first place overall in their age division at the Rainbow National Competition on Jan. 15-17 in Kent. On Monday, four of the dancers briefly rehearsed the three-minute piece named “Mind Heist” and choreographed by instructor and Artistic Director Jamee Pitts (formerly Brown). The girls were inspired by popular young adult novels such as “The Maze Runner” in how they performed.
Just prior to the music, the girls position themselves against the wall, backs straight, arms elongated, smiles on their faces. Then the music starts. Their smiles drop and become suddenly focused, eyes gazing ahead. In that moment, they are becoming the characters in the story they created for this contemporary dance. They are warriors on a mission to find a new home, said 17-year-old dancer Kelsey Lampe.
It’s easy to get wrapped up in the moment.
“When you watch a dance like this, when the music is intense, the dancing is intense … you get pulled in,” said teammate Tessa Sherman, 13.
Lampe found the song and pitched it to Pitts. The music is from the Hans Zimmer score to the Christopher Nolan film “Inception,” a movie about dreams and reality. That’s where Pitts got the name “Mind Heist” for the dance she choreographed.
It pulses like a war drum, and the ladies march accordingly, here and there lashing out with a leg or an arm, straight out like a blade.
Modern or contemporary dance, admits Pitts, isn’t as easily accessible as ballet or ballroom. The moves can be more freeform, and the steps aren’t easily recognizable. But dancers properly performing contemporary choreography should nonetheless be able to elicit a response from viewers, she said, just like any other art.
“You don’t have to know how to speak a different language, but you can move your shoulder and twirl with someone,” she said.
Putting on a showcase like Other Moves, where all of the performing team students get to display modern dance for family and friends is important, the dancers and instructors said. They feel powerful and competent.
“I’m really excited to show everybody what we can do and that we’re winners,” Sherman said.
The Other Moves showcase will feature 17 performances, 13 of which are from Island Dance. The others are by the studio’s alumni, the South Whidbey High School show choir and violinist Talia Marcus. The large performance, called a production piece, includes all of the performing team members and was choreographed by Pitts. During Marcus’ performance, the junior team will improvise a dance having only heard the song once before.
Thrusting young dancers into the spotlight with an unprepared dance is an important step, Pitts said. It allows them to connect their previously learned lessons in a fully creative way bounding with expression. They can interpret the music and move accordingly, bending with the strings and bounding with the beat.
“I don’t want to just watch a pretty dancer,” Pitts said. “I want to watch a dancer who has heart and passion.”
Island Dance shows off Other Moves
The Island Dance showcase for its performing team, Other Moves, will have two performances Saturday, Jan. 30 at South Whidbey High School.
The first is at 2 p.m., then again at 7:30 p.m. They are identical.
Tickets may be purchased at the Island Dance studio at the Langley Middle School campus on Camano Avenue, by calling 360-341-1282 or at the door. Advance purchased tickets cost $12 or $15 at the door.
Correction: A previous version incorrectly listed the ticket prices.