Let me count the ways

Music can inspire them. An image can inspire them. Even an argument can inspire them.

Raelani McLean Kesler dances a contemporary piece in last year’s Dance & Choreography Showcase.

Music can inspire them. An image can inspire them. Even an argument can inspire them.

Choreographers are an interesting bunch. Like all artists, they are easily inspired. But the trick for them is to translate an idea to the body of the dancer.

Whidbey Island Dance Theatre invites their company and guest choreographers to take on that particular challenge every spring. It is time to reveal what has become of this year’s endeavor.

The Dance & Choreography Showcase will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 25 and Saturday,

April 26 at the South Whidbey High School Auditorium.

The program for this year’s showcase is diverse and intriguing, with a variety of choreographers and dancers contributing a myriad of talents and ideas.

Andrea Binder’s “The Mod Lounge” is a jazz piece for six dancers.

Binder said the movement came from listening to the singer Ferruccio Spinetti. Spinetti uses her voice like a jazz musician uses an instrument; with an edgy spontaneity and openness to improvisation.

“I heard her voice and right away thought of those funky pictures you see in Vogue magazine,” Binder said. “The ones where the models match the backdrop and it all looks like an elaborate piece of art.”

Binder said she envisioned the models coming alive in a quirky, playful, cool, teasing, sort of movement with a “mod culture” twist.

She said for background research, she looked at the movies of the “mod” generation and combined those images with the pictures in Vogue and the movement just came out of all that.

“The dancers have been wonderful,” Binder said. “They picked up the mod feel of the movement with a cool attitude. Hopefully, people will just have fun watching it.”

On the opposite end of the spectrum, professional dancer and choreographer Danielle Wilkins was deep in serious thought for her modern piece entitled “Voices Within.”

Inspired by a sequence she had been working on in class with the company dancers, Wilkins was exploring movement that used the give and take of pushing and pulling.

This led to a larger idea of the positive and negative voices in the mind that push and pull one to feel a certain way about themselves, Wilkins said.

“As a young adult, I felt I followed these voices and wasn’t confident or knowledgeable enough to make informed decisions, which is something I am sure my teenaged students are going through,” she said.

By the end of the dance, there is the representation of the strong and powerful girl who can stand on her own two feet and face the tough decisions that may come her way, she said.

Wilkins has accented the piece with poetry she unearthed from her own teenage journals, so the dancers are required to use their voices as well as their bodies for the piece.

The challenge for Wilkins was getting her young dancers to go beyond simply doing the movement with good technique, but to also find the depth of the characters in the piece. For her, it’s what makes it art.

“They’ve allowed themselves to be vulnerable and this has made the piece come to life,” Wilkins said. “I want them to be able to express their emotions in a positive way and I feel this piece allows them to do just that.”

Wilkins has also choreographed a solo dance for herself.

“Passive Aggressive” she said, was inspired from a piece of “sassy” Spanish music that later became a personal exploration of her personality.

“I have had two important people in my life tell me that I am passive aggressive during an argument,” Wilkins said.

Using what Wilkins called her “emotionally charged” personality, she said she explored the idea of passive and aggressive movements ebbing back and forth in a sort of dynamic dialogue that lends an exciting edge to the piece.

“The fun of doing this is that I can choose the things that I excel in as a dancer and really develop my style of movement,” Wilkins said.

Company co-director and choreographer Susan Sandri also delved into the rich, autobiographical playing field for her new work, “Soma brevi.”

“Soma brevi,” she said, means the physical life, as opposed to one’s spiritual longevity or “spiritu eterna.”

Although Sandri said she does not fear death, the piece is about the fears she has of losing earthly relationships.

With the recent loss of a beloved mentor, the aging of her parents and the approaching reality of her youngest child leaving home, Sandri said she is dealing with her fears of loneliness and loss.

“I believe we are eternal beings,” Sandri said. “But

I fear and mourn the loss of relationships; not knowing if relationships in the next phase are the same, that

I won’t be with those people again.”

“Soma brevi” explores the ideas of strengthening one’s connectivity to God instead of earthly relations.

“Fear is consuming,” she said. “Can I let it go? So this piece started to form itself.”

The piece is set to strings and built on a series of motifs and phrases that illustrate or evoke pertinent images for herself, Sandri explained.

“Teaching them to the dancers, trying them on, is slow and wonderful,” she said.

“I love the process of building the dances with the dancers. Sometimes the phrases stay as I first built them, and sometimes they look or feel different on the different bodies of each artist. I tweak and change, reorder and juxtapose elements. The motivation takes on flesh and life.

“The process refines the choreography; like editing a story, polishing silver or rearranging a room. It’s my favorite part,” she said.

Sandri spoke of how the process takes on the mind, the body and spirit all at once, its sense of community as she works with a group of young, excited artists to articulate life and to create beauty.

“I am so blessed to get to choreograph on terrific dancers in a truly decent theater,” she said. “See, behold, wonder.”

Indeed, there will be a variety of pieces to behold and wonder at with this performance. Whidbey Island Dance Theatre company dancers will also perform several excerpts from “Swan Lake,” staged by internationally acclaimed dancer and dance theatre teacher Leigh-Ann Cohen and by ballet critic and author Dean Speer.

The dance theatre is also pleased to welcome The Peninsula Dance Theater. In its 35th year, the Bremerton-based company draws more than

10,000 people to see its annual productions and will be performing two pieces by choreographers Kiyon Gaines and Lara Littlefield.

Tickets are $18 for adults and $10 for youth under

18 years of age. Buy tickets online at www.widtonline.org or call the box office at 341-2221. Tickets will also be available at the door for both performances.



It used to be fairly easy to know if you’d sinned or not.

The seven deadly sins were clearly spelled out; pride, gluttony, sloth, lust, greed, envy and anger. Being human meant chances were good that you’d be guilty of at least two or three on a regular basis, but that gave you something to confess and be forgiven for, if or when you went to confession and believed in such things.

Now, of course, you need only make a public apology for whatever it is you’ve done and that makes it all OK.

Well, sinning has become a lot more complicated now that the Vatican has issued new guidelines for what constitutes a sin. According to Pope Benedict, who’s about to pay this country a visit, “We are losing the notion of sin.” It seems that attendance at confession has dropped dramatically and interpretations of some of the seven deadlies have changed substantially.

Pride is now thought of as “self-esteem,” something we should all work to acquire, especially young girls, and a lack of self-esteem is often cited as the cause of more than a few personality maladjustments.

Lust and greed are frequently the motivation behind many modern advertising strategies; righteous anger makes it OK for protesters to destroy property; and most working people, especially those with kids, would welcome the opportunity to indulge in some sloth.

As for gluttony, a few French chefs recently went so far as to petition the Vatican to recognize that being a gourmand (lover of good food and drink) is not the same as gluttony. Hurrah!

To confuse matters further, however, the recently expanded list of sins now includes such things as polluting, cloning, genetic modifications, taking drugs, tolerating or promoting social injustices and becoming obscenely rich. Frankly, I’d like a shot at that particular sin. And, by the way, how does the obscenely wealthy Vatican get away with calling becoming obscenely rich a sin? Talk about hypocrisy.

I knew what every single one of the original seven deadly sins meant; it wasn’t difficult to recognize any of those feelings or the actions they might lead to.

But, the term “social injustice” is both vague and so widely used that

I suspect every person living today is guilty of some form of social injustice and often we may not even recognize when we’ve committed a social injustice. And what of those who commit social injustices in the name of their God or because of their religious beliefs? Who decides exactly when social injustice has occurred and what will the punishment be, I wonder?

As you see, life just seems to get more and more complicated and now, thanks to the Vatican, we can’t even be sure if we’re sinning or not.

Personally, I prefer the seven originals, except for the one about gluttony. I’m totally with the French chefs on that one and I’d gladly sign their



As long as we’re handing out kudos to French chefs for requesting a revision in the term “gluttony,” let’s go with a couple of very French recipes today. Oooh la la.

Sitting on a hotel patio on a very hot day in Mazatlan, Mexico, I ate my first ever bowl of vichyssoise. It fast became one of my all time favorite chilled soups on a summer evening, but with one or two modifications, it is equally delicious as Potage Parmentier (i.e., leek potato soup) on a chilly evening.


4 cups peeled, coarsely chopped potatoes

3 cups thinly sliced leeks (use the white part plus about 2 inches of green, and be sure to wash them well first)

1-2 T. vegetable oil

2 qts. chicken stock, preferably homemade

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 1⁄2 cups cream* (see instructions for substitutions and changes for hot soup)

3 T. minced fresh chives or finely chopped fresh parsley

In a heavy 6-quart saucepan, heat the vegetable oil over med. heat. Put the sliced leeks in the heated oil and “sweat” them for about a minute. Add potatoes, stock and 1 t. salt; bring to simmering, cover and allow to cook about 20 min., or until vegetables are tender.

Remove from heat and put soup through a food mill or fine sieve into a bowl. (Don’t use a food processor for this as it makes it too fine and this should be a thick soup). Season the soup with additional salt, if necessary, and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Stir in cream then chill the soup until very cold. Serve garnished with fresh chives or parsley. Serves 6-8.

* To make the hot version, after putting the soup through the food mill, return it to the pan on low heat, adjust seasonings as necessary, stir in 1 cup cream and bring soup just to a simmer before serving. Ladle soup into bowls, garnish with fresh chives or parsley. Regarding substitutions for the cream, I’ve used half milk/half cream, half and half, and on occasion only milk, but the soup is not as rich tasting.

Soup is a major part of most French dinner menus; it is considered rather uncouth not to have soup of some kind as part of the evening meal. This classic recipe for vegetable soup is another favorite because I not only like the addition of the white beans (a typical French soup ingredient) but because you can use virtually any fresh vegetables in this that you can get your hands on.


3 cups water

3⁄4 cup dry white beans (such as Great Northern or navy beans)

4 T. olive oil

1 cup diced onions

1 lb. tomatoes, peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped (about 1-1/2 cups and yes, I sometimes cheat and use canned)

3 quarts water

1 1⁄2 cups diced carrots

1 1⁄2 cups diced boiling potatoes

1 cup coarsely chopped leeks

1⁄2 cup coarsely chopped celery leaves

1 T. salt, or to taste

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 1⁄2 cups sliced fresh green beans

1 1⁄2 cups diced zucchini (unpeeled)

1⁄2 cup broken pieces of spaghettini (or other fine pasta)

2 pinches crumbled saffron threads (yes, it’s expensive but you use very little and nothing equals it for enhancing color and adding a very subtle flavor)

Bring the 3 cups water to a boil in a 3 qt. saucepan. Drop in the white beans and boil them for 2 min. Remove from heat and let the beans soak for 1 hr. Return pan to low heat and simmer uncovered for 1 to 1 1⁄2 hrs., or until beans are tender. Drain beans but reserve the cooking liquid.

In a soup pot, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Stir in the onion and cook over med. heat until onion is limp and golden. Add tomatoes and cook 3-4 min. longer. Pour in the 3 qts. of water and bring soup to a boil over high heat. Add carrots, potatoes, leeks, celery leaves, salt and a few grindings of pepper. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 15 min.

Stir in the beans, with their cooking liquid, and all remaining ingredients. Simmer for additional 15 min., or until vegetables are tender. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary. I like to sprinkle the hot soup with freshly grated Parmesan cheese before serving, or serve it on the side along with the soup. Serve with crusty French bread and a tossed green salad. Serves 10-12.

Margaret Walton can be reached at falwalcal@msn.com.

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