‘Mirage’ uses dance to change classic fairy tale narratives, promotes feminism

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Photo credit: Nicki Rosenberg

This year's theme for the Night of Dance was 'Mirage' which used dance to re-imagine classic fairy tales. Dance captain Kelsey Thompson ('20) was inspired by modern feminist ideals when creating the show's theme.

By Nicki Rosenberg, Managing Editor

Archer students, parents, faculty, family and friends fill the audience at The Broad Stage. The lights dim, and the words “Once Upon a Time” are projected on the screen, drawing the audience into the tale that is Archer’s annual Night of Dance.

This was the scene on Feb. 18 and 19, the nights of this year’s dance show “Mirage.” According to senior dance captain Kelsey Thompson, the show used dance to “modernize” and “shift the narratives” of classic fairytales.

“The choreographers added their own interpretation [to each dance], so I think ‘Mirage’ is our reimagination of these fairy tales,” dance executive board member and senior Julia Wanger said, “and ingrained in that is female empowerment and sort of changing the endings of those typical stories, which I think is really cool to see.”

In order to prepare for the show, 130 middle and upper school students attended a variety of dance classes taught by both students and visiting choreographers. Although dancing is the focal point of the show, Wanger said “a lot more” goes into the show’s planning process.  

“The process starts very early on, so we have been working since the beginning of the school year up until now, having weekly meetings from discussing the program, to the music to costuming,” she said. “A lot of work goes into putting on this show.”

For Thompson, this show is one she has been waiting for. She started dancing in Archer’s Dance Troupe in seventh grade. 

“It’s been a long time coming because I’ve been in dance for six or seven years now, so I’ve been awaiting the moment of being on the dance exec board and being captain for so long,” Thompson said. “So starting last year in May, we started planning for the show, so watching it all come together over time has been exciting for us.”

When deciding this year’s theme, Thompson was inspired by fairytales and their impact on young people, especially young girls. 

“Something that I have been really interested in is fairytales and the impact of them, like the unrealistic nature of them, especially the very traditional ones which expect women to conform to a certain stereotype,” Thompson said. “But I want to recognize that those stereotypes are really just a mirage; they aren’t real.”

In past years, the Night of Dance show has been at the American Jewish University, but because of schedule conflicts, the traditional space was unable to accommodate Archer this year. 

“I was definitely a little bit bummed that AJU couldn’t have us this year because I’ve been performing there throughout my whole Archer dance career, but I was excited about the new location because it will be fun to try something new, and I like mixing things up,” Thompson said. “We’re really excited to be performing at the Broad Stage. It’s really beautiful and we’re really excited to work with the new lighting setup, and that it can easily accommodate our aerialists.” 

To conclude the show, senior dancers Angelica Gonzalez, Celeste Ramirez, Kennede Tucker, Julia Wanger and Kelsey Thompson performed a dance titled “Looking Glass — To Be a Princess,” which expressed the experience of growing up and realizing that the fairy tales you grow up with are “not what real life is like.” As these seniors head off on their next journey this fall, Thompson expressed her confidence in the next generation of Archer dancers: the current juniors.

“I’m so lucky to have grown up with all of the juniors, and I know that they’re going to do an amazing job next year, it’s going to be really hard to leave them because they’re like my best friends in the program,” Thompson said. “I’ll definitely be FaceTiming them next year.”