Behind the wings: Dancers, crew reflect on bringing ‘Timeless’ to life

By Nina Sperling, Senior Reporter

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  • Advanced Study dancers pose on stage wearing sparkly mesh tops and baggy pants during their dance, “The Great Gatsby,” which opened Night of Dance at the Broad Stage. The dance was choreographed by Jezebel Melara and based on the book by F. Scott Fitzgerald. This year is the first year that Night of Dance has been held at a theater since 2020. The theme of this year’s show was “Timeless,” with each dance representing a book and a different stage in the coming-of-age cycle.

    Photo credit: Charlotte Tragos
  • Seniors Ava Cherniss, Penelope Bisley, wearing white dresses, and Daisy Marmur, wearing a black dress, look at each other smiling and holding hands as they dance. The trio was based on the novel, “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” by C.S. Lewis and was choreographed by Bisley and Cherniss.

    Photo credit: Charlotte Tragos
  • Dancers in “Jane Eyre” gather together and pose all together, holding on to each other and looking at the audience as a spotlight shines on them. “Jane Eyre” was choreographed by Rose Conroy-Voza and is based on the book by Charlotte Bronte. Photo by Parker Keston.

  • Senior Daisy Marmur, a rhythmic gymnast, leaps during “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” holding a long green and pink ribbon. Photo by Parker Keston.

  • Dancers in “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” hold each other in a group as they lean in different poses. The dance was choreographed by Roni Blak during a Dance Troupe class, Archer’s after school dance program. “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” was based on the book of the same name by Maya Angelou.

    Photo credit: Charlotte Tragos
  • Advanced Study dancers, wearing bright red dresses, reach out their arms and point their feet as they look down on stage. “Pachinko,” the dance, was based on the novel of the same name and featured the song “Run” by Joji.

    Photo credit: Charlotte Tragos
  • Juniors Sydney Azar, Lexi Wolf and Kate Sullivan do a firebird jump as juniors Sophia Landers, Anna Entin and Rebecca Lazarus hold their hands. Landers and Azar choreographed the dance, based on the classic novel “Little Women.” They were among the six other student choreographers featured in the show, and “Little Women” was among the 12 student choreographed numbers showcased in Night of Dance. Photo by Parker Keston.

  • Dance Performance III dancers jump while performing “Kalfka and the Sun” on stage wearing sequin covered black dresses. Dance teacher and Night of Dance Artistic Director Andrea Locke choreographed the dance to a remix of “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay” by Otis Redding. Photo by Parker Keston.

  • Senior dancers pose during their last dance in Night of Dance. Ashley Fisher-Pallic choreographed the dance, with a large amount of input from the dancers, according to senior Zoe Epps. “The very last part of the dance [we] were holding hands in a circle, and we had a second to process it all just before running in for a hug,” Epps said. “We decided on the last show all the seniors that weren’t in the senior dance joined in on the hug too. It was the perfect way to say goodbye.” Photo by Parker Keston.

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Dancers in shimmery black tops and baggy pants stepped into their positions on the dark stage at the Broad Stage and opened the first Night of Dance show at 2 p.m., Feb. 18.

All of the dancers who performed in the shows had been learning choreography since the beginning of this school year, but behind the scenes, the dance leadership team had been planning the show since last June.

Members of Archer’s dance leadership team said the preparations leading up to Night of Dance were at times stressful, but it was a rewarding experience overall.

“Our show is called ‘Timeless,’ and it’s basically a bunch of books that we identify as timeless,” co-dance captain Cara Banks said. “It has that same element and arc … Basically we’re creating a story using other stories that overall shapes or shows how our story here at Archer has [developed]”

Last year’s Night of Dance, titled “Transformation,” was held outdoors on campus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While preparing for “Transformation,” Banks said she knew she wanted to be a captain the following year. Co-dance captain Audrey DeUgarte (’23) said once Banks came up with the idea of basing each dance off of a book, the plans for “Timeless” came to life quickly.

“[Cara] came up with the idea, and then, after we were elected captains, we started to work on it right away,” DeUgarte said. “We had a lot of meetings with Ms. Locke this year… We had to book the Broad Stage. We had to look at the program, find what books we wanted [and] explain and attach them to different [styles] to see whichever best represented the book.”

The dance leadership team spent months picking books for each dance. Banks said almost all of the novels they included were part of the English department’s curriculum or recommended by English teachers and dance leadership team members. Production captains Sogna Louie (’23) and Zoe Epps (’23) read each book to ensure they were sharing diverse stories throughout the show. The books ranged from Ray Bradbury’s “Farenheit 451” to “Pachinko” by Min Jin Lee to “Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott.

“After some insensitive dances we have witnessed or been a part of in the past, we wanted to ensure that this show avoided any misconceptions or inconsiderate interpretations of the novels we chose,” Louie and Epps wrote in an email to the choreographers. “As we are striving for an intersectional show, we did a bunch of research to ensure we showcased a diverse selection of authors and stories that have themes (beyond race) to connect to tell our own cohesive story; thus, redefining what it means to be a literary classic.” 

Banks and DeUgarte said they split up Night of Dance into several sections to represent the coming-of-age cycle, starting with “youth” and ending with “maturity.”

“We sectioned [the show] up into different themes, so it follows the coming-of-age cycle,” Louie said. “We thought that the coming-of-age story is a timeless story … just because you hit that narrative at several different points in your life, not just as a teenager.”

In addition to the theme and production, costumes were also a large part of planning the dance show. Junior Sophia Landers and senior Ava Cherniss were this year’s costume captains. Landers said she and Cherniss decided on all of the costumes with input from the choreographers and Artistic Director Andrea Locke.

“Mostly, we kind of made [the costumes] match the style of the dance, but sometimes we add jewelry,” Landers said. “To provide an example, sometimes we would go with colors. So for ‘Fahrenheit [451]’ that has a lot of fire imagery, we chose a red costume, or for something that was more about purity and innocence, we chose white dresses.”

Junior and senior dancers in Advanced Study Dance stand backstage at The Broad Stage in black and mesh sparkly tops, baggy pants and sneakers before their dance, "The Great Gatsby," the opening performance in Night of Dance.
Junior and senior dancers in Advanced Study Dance stand backstage at The Broad Stage in black and mesh sparkly tops, baggy pants and sneakers before their dance, “The Great Gatsby,” the opening performance in Night of Dance. (Photo credit: Julianna Hatton)

The dance leadership team held several on-campus rehearsals on Saturdays to practice each number. When the Saturday rehearsals started, seniors Emma Frank and Ella Poon began their roles as stage managers. In this role, Poon and Frank ensured that the show was organized and ran smoothly. In addition, they helped with set changes and props.

“The goal is always just to make sure that we make the lives of our dancers easier and that we make sure the show runs as smoothly as possible,” Poon said. “If something does go wrong, we fix it, and hopefully the audience’s won’t notice.”

Frank said she enjoyed being a stage manager and appreciated the leadership skills it has given her. Since she is a senior, she said she will especially miss working on crew and was grateful for her experience and the people she has worked with.

“I feel like Night of Dance is a really special tradition to do because it’s different than doing the musical and the play because it’s a dance production,” Frank said. “It was a really unique experience, and it’s always going to be something that I miss. I’m really glad that I tried it out last year because I feel like I would have missed out on a lot, and I met a lot of great people through it.”

In addition to being a stage manager, Frank designed the printed programs, which she did last year as well.

Banks and DeUgarte said one of their main goals for “Timeless” was to make it enjoyable and meaningful for everyone involved. They said they were grateful to have had the opportunity to create a show and see their vision come to life.

“We want everybody to have a lot of fun. As much as it’s about ‘yeah, we want to put on a great show,’ more than anything, some of my best experiences at Archer and favorite memories have been on the dance stage,” Banks said. “We are really prioritizing making sure that everybody has that similar experience, whether it takes us having to hype them up like we just did… and getting everyone really excited.”