Whidbey Dance Theater showcases choreography

Clockwise from right front, Hailey Way, Sarah Styke, Amy Arand, Jenna Wild and Emily Jones  reach for inspiration during rehearsals for the Dean Speers choreographed “Songs of Auvergne.”  - Cynthia Woolbright
Clockwise from right front, Hailey Way, Sarah Styke, Amy Arand, Jenna Wild and Emily Jones reach for inspiration during rehearsals for the Dean Speers choreographed “Songs of Auvergne.”
— image credit: Cynthia Woolbright

About four minutes. That’s all Ayesha Fuentes had. But in that four minutes, she’s crafted pure delight.

“It’s a lot of fun, especially when you know another dancer created it,” said Whidbey Dance Theater dancer Chelsea Matthews.

“About Four Minutes (Supposed Non-Relay)” is based on WDT alumna Ayesha Fuentes’ studies in Beijing, China, and the music, play and movement of Chinese school children. The piece was choreographed in expedited rehearsal sessions since Fuentes was only back on Whidbey for a brief time earlier this year. But when WDT co-artistic directors Charlene Brown and Susan Campbell Sandri saw the piece, they knew they saw something truly emerging: the art choreography.

They were right, and that’s why Fuente’s “About Four Minutes” was selected to be performed later this year at the prestigious Regional Dance America Pacific Festival, where world-class instructors pair with elite young dancers to hone their craft. And during Whidbey Dance Theater’s Choreographers Showcase Friday and Saturday, Fuentes will take about four minutes of an evening packed full of some of the finest dancing in the area.

“The showcase is a chance for all the choreographers — professional or emerging — to stretch themselves and their abilities,” said Charlene Brown. “This gives our dancers some highly technical material in which they also can utilize their abilities.”

WDT resident choreographer Susan Campbell Sandri will return with “Sacred Feminine,” a flowing piece inspired by the book “The da Vinci Code,” and will debut the modern piece “Daily Wilderness.” WDT resident choreographer Susan Vanderwood will take it to “The Next Level” with a jazz en pointe piece to the music of Prince that showcases WDT alumna Leslie Larch.

Guest choreographers include Dean Speers, who’s “Songs of the Auvergne” will be performed by the junior and apprentice company. Daniel Wilkins, former New York choreographer and current associate artistic director of Olympic Ballet, has prepared “Ani Tsunami,” also an RDA selection, in reflection of this year’s tsunami disaster. Guest choreographer Andrea Binder prepared the jazz number “Return of the Pink Panther” complete with numerous panthers and a lone Inspector Clueso.

Whidbey Dance Theater alumna and emerging choreographer Andrea Burr returns to the showcase to “Let Go” to the music of FruFru, along with a piece co-choreographed and performed with Karl Massey called “Chemistry.”

Expect the work from the young choreographers Fuentes and Burr to be a mix of classic themes and innovative choreographic thinking, Matthews said.

“It’s great, because emerging choreographers’ work tends to be different,” she said. “They show their own style and don’t stick to just one thing they’ve learned but draw from everything they’ve learned.”

Laurentia Barbu — a Romanian dancer, choreographer and teacher with extensive international work on film, television and stage — will perform the modern solo “Passage,” set to a sound collage that includes the cello sounds of Yo-Yo Ma and a Shaker hymn. Rounding out the evening is a tap solo by WDT alumn Devin Matthews to the music of Ray Charles.

The dance styles will be a mixed palette of ballet, modern, jazz and lyrical crafted by choreographers who are a mix of emerging, local, alumni and nationally and internationally known artists.

The Choreographers’ Showcase is a major funding source for Whidbey Dance Theater. Instead of washing cars or selling chocolate to earn money, the dancers put in extra time in class and rehearsals — building a 6-7 day work week for them — to prepare for the showcase. The proceeds are a major contributor in the company’s travel expenses to the annual Regional Dance America Pacific Festival, at which the dancers will perform for and train under world-class teachers from around the globe. Funds also defer production costs for Whidbey Dance Theatre’s holiday production of “The Nutcracker.”

If people would like to show their support for the Dance Theatre, but are unable to attend, they support three causes at once by purchasing tickets that are then used by children and families connected with the local Big Brothers/Big Sisters program to the Family Resource Center.

The Choreographer’s Showcase will be the last chance for the Whidbey Dance Theatre faithful to see WDT senior dancers Katelyn Candelario and Alexis Daly perform with the company, along with fellow senior Lauren Jones of Oak Harbor.

Whidbey Dance Theatre was founded in 1993 to promote dance as a significant cultural resource for the Whidbey-area and to provide preprofessional experience for young elite dancers. WDT was accepted to join the prestigious Regional Dance America in 2001.

“Dance is grace and beauty manifest,” Sandri said. “If there’s such as thing as looking out the window to appreciate the wonder of nature, then watching dance is the wonder of human nature.”

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