‘The restrictions have brought out strength’: Night of Dance plans shift as cases surge

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Photo credit: Keera Levell-Guerrero

Middle school students run through their dance during MS-FlX Block. Pictured was the dancers in formation at the beginning of a dance. All middle school students had the choice at the beginning of the school year to sign up for MS-FLX Block dance class in which the dance they learned would be showcased at the annual Night of Dance performance.

By Surya Patil, Staff Reporter

With change, comes transformation. The 2022 theme for Night of Dance is transformations, highlighting dances that portray journeys of transformation. The dances will describe physical or intangible changes in individuals, groups of people or the world.

“With my dances, I am doing a lot about personal transformations,” co-dance captain and student-choreographer Sophia Farmer said. “One of them is about not being stuck in somebody else’s shadow, and it is about learning to find your own light.”

Unlike years prior, Night of Dance will not take place at American Jewish University or another venue due to logistical issues stemming from COVID-19. The show will be held at Archer in the Eastern Star courtyard on Feb. 22, 23, and 24, at 7:30 p.m. The stage will be exposed as opposed to a traditional, proscenium stage, and there will be a maximum of 200 audience members in order to safely distance everyone.

All of the dancers have only gathered as a company one time, and the usual bonding activities that occur to bridge the middle and upper school companies together have not taken place. This year, middle school students had the opportunity to learn dances during MS-FLX Block. These dances will be showcased at Night of Dance. Students were able to sign up for specific days based off of the style of dance they wanted to explore. On days six and eight, a jazz dance is taught, and on days five and seven hip hop dances are explored.

What is most important is having the dancers dance together on stage [even] if that meant with no audience. The experience of dancing together on stage is the communal aspect of dancing that makes it so powerful, ” director of the dance program Andrea Locke said. “The restrictions and the limitations have brought out strength, resilience and that we are going to make this work with determination.

This year, a total of 11 guest choreographers came to Archer to lead workshops and teach different dances. Out of the 11 choreographers, six of them are new to Archer’s dance program. The 11 choreographers teach a variety of styles including contemporary, hip hop and jazz.

“I am in the jazz dance on days five and seven and have really enjoyed the experience dancing with everyone,” seventh grader Beyla Patil said. “Our choreographer’s name is Ms. Grace, and she is very productive, gets things done on time and we all really love her.”

In addition to professional choreographers, there are several senior student choreographers leading dances where they have complete freedom to explore any styles of dance. The student choreographers teach dances for grade level company classes as well as after school classes.

“Having the opportunity to have student leaders on the dance team [and the program] being fully student-run … is really powerful and shows that when our students really bond together we can create amazing shows,” freshman and company dancer Julianna Hatton said. “When I first did Night of Dance in seventh grade, I was just in a couple of dances, and I was amazed at how integral each person is [in] a part of the process.”

Last year, students who participated in Night of Dance recorded videos of them dancing, which were compiled to create the night on Zoom. The leadership team, along with Locke, decided that their priority this year is insuring that all of the dancers are able to dance on stage together.

Prior to the recent surge in Archer’s COVID-19 cases, performers were not going to be required to wear masks during Night of Dance. However, due to the ongoing surge in Omnicron cases, masks will be required for dances on stage. Locke said that for her, the hardest part of putting together this year’s show was navigating through all the changes and remaining flexible, positive and hopeful.

“We are all navigating a change in our perspective of the importance of dance. I think it has become more important to people,” Locke said“We have to share the joys and sorrows and everything that we’re going through as human beings during this time and it comes through with dance.”