Performance set for April 26-27 at EMCC Performing Arts Center includes choreography by students, guest artist
Estrella Mountain Community College (EMCC) Dance Professor Janaea Lyn McAlee is excited for DancEstrella’s upcoming performance of This, That and the Other. The student company presents the cabaret-style production at 3 and 7 p.m. April 26 and 27 at the Performing Arts Center (PAC) on campus at 3000 N. Dysart Road, Avondale.
“What’s exciting and different is that not only do we have so much student work, but it was so diverse — the genres, the content, all of it — that we decided to create a cabaret-style structure for the show,” McAlee said. “We decided to create an environment that represented a supper club and called that Cabaret Papillon.”
Papillon, meaning butterfly in French, pays homage to Dr. Bryan Tippet, former EMCC President of Learning who died unexpectedly in the spring of 2015.
“He loved butterflies,” McAlee said. “He was a champion of the arts at EMCC, and fought for 10 years for this very building to be built. He died tragically before it was opened. Those of us who have been here knew how important this was to him.”
McAlee said the creative diversity of the students’ choreography was the inspiration for the show’s title. From ballet, modern and contemporary to jazz, old school hip-hop and West African, the show features 11 practicum dances; collaborative choreography by students in performance classes; and group dances by McAlee and Ballet Arizona guest artist Colleen Buckley.
Buckley completed a week-long residency in mid-March at EMCC. During that time, she choreographed a new body of work for the students called Subconscious, which will be the finale to the show.
“All the dancers are together and they’re supposed to be the thoughts and processes going on in the brain of one person,” Buckley said, explaining that the dancers in the front represent the main thought while the other dancers represent all the subconscious thoughts going through one’s head.
Buckley, who is originally from New York, joined Ballet Arizona two years ago after an extremely competitive audition process.
“The audition I went to was one of three auditions Ballet Arizona held,” she said. “I auditioned in New York City. There were about 150 people in the room, and they hired me and one other woman.”
This is her first residency and first professional choreography experience. It’s also EMCC’s first time hosting a resident dancer. The collaborative project has been two years in the making.
“It’s been really great because the students have been so open and receptive to what I’m giving them material-wise,” Buckley said. “It’s been great to teach ballet class every morning, too, because every day, I do ballet class, so it’s been great to share something that’s such a big part of my life with them.”
DancEstrella member Kyara Parker will also perform her solo called And I Asked God Why Must I Feel Everything So Deeply?
“Which is a long title,” Parker said with a laugh. “It’s about growing up and having so many emotions and not knowing what to do with them.”
The solo, which was the first piece Parker choreographed herself, was awarded first place Solo Performance and second place Solo Choreography Feb. 16 at the Maricopa Artist of Promise Dance competition.
“It was really comforting because everyone perceived it exactly as I wanted them to,” Parker said.
The event was a competition but its main purpose was for performers to get feedback from adjudicators.
“Walking into it, I would not allow myself to think of it as a competition,” Parker said. “There was a side of it where everyone knew we’d be competing against each other, but it was still welcoming. I just looked at it as I’m here to get feedback.”
That being said, she was more than pleased when she found out she won the awards.
“Because it’s a really emotional thing to take what’s in your heart, put it on stage, and then for people to see it,” Parker said. “That’s really scary. I really wanted to reach into the deepest parts of me and that’s scary to do in front of people, so when people receive it and they like it, then it’s heartwarming.”
Perhaps made even scarier is the fact that her piece is performed sans music.
“That’s the first piece that has ever won in silence,” McAlee said. “I thought that was great. It was validating for what I consider to be a very young, exceptional talent. It was also validation for EMCC and the work we’re doing here. I just felt super thrilled for everybody.”
Parker said she vacillated on whether or not to perform without music, but in the end, silence spoke loudest.
“I personally don’t like starting things with music because I feel like it restricts you,” Parker said. “What I did use, though, was my breath. There are moments when I sound like I’m crying and others where I sound like I can’t breathe at all, and that put it all together into one piece.”
Parker has one more semester before she graduates from EMCC. She’s currently looking at schools for choreography and dance.
“It is a goal to perform, but my main goal is to be a choreographer,” Parker said.
Aside from her solo, Parker can also be seen in several other performances during the show.
Admission to This, That and the Other is free and audience members are invited to participate in a brief discussion with dancers at the end of each show.