Competitive dancers from the Coast Academy of Dance and Performing Arts inspired fierce admiration from capacity audiences at the Gibsons Heritage Playhouse during two “sneak peak” performances on March 5.
Over two dozen distinct acts put the dancers through their paces, demonstrating original choreography in styles ranging from nostalgic lyricism to high-calibre musical theatre.
The Sechelt-based studio draws students from communities throughout the Sunshine Coast. The performance provided an opportunity to preview acts that will be entered in upcoming springtime festivals: the Shine Dance Festival, the Star Talent Dance Competition, and the Coastal Dance Festival.
For the first two festivals, dancers will travel to venues in the Lower Mainland, while the Coastal Dance Festival will take place at the 93-year-old Heritage Playhouse.
Christina Darwin, now the Coast Academy studio manager, has served as an instructor at the facility for nearly 15 years. She has taught some of the present dancers since they were three years old, encouraging them to attempt different styles.
“I think it’s something that’s so special for them,” she said following Saturday’s evening performance. “Like the fact that they come out and do jazz and contemporary and lyrical and then Broadway? They’re such a diverse group.”
Owing to COVID-19 regulations, the dancers performed while protected by masks and face guards.
“I’m so proud of these kids, especially after the two years that we’ve been through,” said Darwin. “This is the first time they’ve gotten to perform in front of a live audience in two years. And it’s just such an experience. Their faces when they came onstage after their first piece this afternoon was just amazing.”
The entire company, adorned in red-and-black leotards, opened the program with an explosive number titled “Bang Bang,” which was choreographed by Astrid Eckerle, a Vancouver-based performer and instructor.
Soloist Alison Girard presented a poignant interpretive piece called “Grandpa Dave,” in which her movements amplified a voiceover chronicling the effect of support and affection from a devoted grandfather. The work was choreographed by Becky Izad, the studio’s Monte Carlo-born instructor, who developed almost half of the acts performed during the showcase.
Dancers in the studio’s Intermediate and Senior Competitive Broadway program, choreographed by Darwin herself, elicited spontaneous cheers during their rendition of “We Both Reached for the Gun,” from the musical Chicago. Rapid variations in tempo—and the downstage antics of dancers aping puppets—produced a blend of crowd-pleasing humour and hyperbolic theatricality.
A group of adult dancers clad in black-and-white camouflage leggings—Mary Basas, Ivana Cappelletto, Amy Perry and Megan Roberts—delivered a raucous tribute to 1980s pop in “Whoose Bad.” The work was choreographed by Cappelletto, the studio’s cardio and dance fitness instructor, and culminated with hats being flung into the crowd (then painstakingly retrieved during the blackout).
“Waiting Room,” a contemporary number also choreographed by Izad, involved 10 white-clad dancers recreating human drama that plays out in the limbo of hospital corridors.
Proceeds from the Coast Academy performances will support its bursary program for young dancers.