– Martha Graham
It is likely that the first art form was dance, perhaps beginning with the jumps for joy after a successful hunt, followed by festive dances around the fire after dinner. Life is movement – and the organized, coordinated movement in dance is the celebration of life.
Much of that celebration was on display in the Deer Valley High School Theater on Nov. 29 and 30, the scene of the ninth annual Winter Dance Concert. On the 29th, the theater was packed with raucous friends and family members of scores of dancers ranging in age from 5 to 90.
Performances were provided by the school’s beginning, intermediate and advanced dance classes, local dance studios, cheerleading teams and the DVHS Dance Team, which previewed some of the routines they’ll be competing with regionally and nationally in the coming year.
There was a time when to take dance lessons meant spending grueling years at the barre, studying ballet. But very little ballet was on display at last week’s concert. Instead, the sound system blasted hip hop hits as the dancers athletically gyrated in synchronized patterns reminiscent of MTV music videos and iPod commercials. There was also a fair amount of jazz dance on display.
The reason for the concert – other than to display all of the hard work and talent that had gone into it – was to raise funds for the DVHS Dance Team, which does not get the funding that goes to the school’s sports or cheerleading teams, despite competing on behalf of the school throughout the state.
“I would just like people to know that dance is a completely different thing than cheerleading,” said Lisa Jeung-Ferlin, Dance Team Booster President. “We do have the student fundraiser because we are not considered a sport. So we don’t get a sport allotment like cheerleading and wrestling and basketball.”
Should dance be considered a sport by school officials?
“Absolutely,” she said. “I think it’s an art as well. I think dancers are artists as well as athletes.”
Jeung-Ferlin gives a lot of the credit for the success of the team and the school’s dance classes to teacher Sharlene Sabonis.
“Mrs. Sabonis has a really great program here, because there’s a lot of kids that would not otherwise have that door opened for them and introduce them to dance,” said Jeung-Ferlin. “She really does open the door for a lot of these kids. Her classes are full. She has waiting lists every year.”
Among the evening’s numerous highlights was a dance by Jeung-Ferlin’s daughter Aleena, the only dancer chosen to perform solo. Wearing a blue dress, she was a vision of loveliness and grace as she twirled 11 pirouettes in a row en pointe in a dance that was a combination of ballet and jazz moves.
Aleena is a member of the DVHS Dance Team, which has been working since July to prepare for the competitions that begin in January. They were in fine form at last week’s show, beginning with a hot jazzy routine appropriately called “Steam Heat.” They were also nicely synchronized on Rockettes-style kicking in their last two numbers of the evening.
While most of the evening’s dance routines relied on highly amplified music, one of the more effective performances was provided by the 15 members of The Royalty Steppers, who provided their own sound track just with their voices, the clack of their stomping feet and the slapping clap of their hands.
Ironically, in a high school concert, the group that might have received the wildest response was the Antioch Senior Flappers, who range in age from 53 to 90. The crowd ate up the ladies as they gently hoofed and tapped through Scott Joplin’s “Maple Leaf Rag.”
At the other end of the age spectrum was a bunch of little flappers who performed a piece appropriately called “The Seven Shakin’ Sensations.” The girls appeared to be about 5 but mature beyond their years as they shook it up to an updated version of “Twist and Shout.”
It looks like the DVHS Dance Team will have plenty of talented recruits for years to come.