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Coast Academy leaps into competition season

Local dancers offer ‘sneak peek’ into spring numbers
Coast Academy dancers who will compete in the platinum/diamond Broadway category of upcoming competitions kick things off with “Make ‘Em Laugh.”

Competitive dancers from Sechelt’s Coast Academy of Dance exploded onto the stage of the Heritage Playhouse in back-to-back performances last weekend, launching the spectacle with a supercharged homage to Broadway musical theatre. 

“Make ‘Em Laugh” (choreographed by guest instructor Astrid Eckerle) led the way with 15 dancers in 1940s-era costumes and a prop piano, followed by 29 other numbers highlighting routines that will be performed at upcoming competitions. 

This spring, Coast Academy dancers will appear at the Shine Dance Festival, the Coastal Dance Festival and the Star Talent Dance Competition. Four members of the studio’s graduating company (Mya Perry, Andrea Villanueva, Tessa Rowland, and Makenzi Harris) will also compete in the Evolve Competition, which culminates in BC and Alberta “DanceDowns” in June. 

Perry, Villanueva, Rowland and Harris were four of the featured soloists during the shows on March 2. Villanueva’s lyrical solo, titled “Tataciksta,” featured vocals sung and recorded by the dancer herself.  

For Harris’s hip hop number (“Snatched”) she appeared in sunglasses with muscles poised for a provocative display of urban choreography. Rowland’s lyrical performance (“Remedy”) projected emotional fortitude and defiance. In Perry’s contemporary solo (“Slow Up”) she applied mind-boggling malleability to tell a story of resurgence. Her own seemingly disembodied hands pressed her head to the floor before she rose again, leaping to her feet from a supine position. 

“I think our group this year is incredibly versatile,” said Christina Darwin, Coast Academy’s managing director and a faculty member. “They can commit beautifully to anything from an artistic contemporary piece to a hard-hitting hip hop number. They commit each and every time they take to the stage. [It’s] so fun to watch!” 

Other solos were performed by Jamie McCarthy, Isabella Casey-Campbell, Annika Bergman, Poppy McPherson, Kate Stewart, Holly Talbot and Vivan Lu. 

The opening number was not the only Broadway routine included in the lineup. Annika Bergman and Taylor Bramham, outfitted in medieval garb, telescoped the self-referential merriment of Spamalot into a version whose deft pirouettes outnumbered those of any full-length production. In “Opening Up,” a dozen dancers wielding pie plates channeled the 2015 musical Waitress. 

Audiences responded with shouts of acclaim for “Let’s Get Down,” a hip hop number featuring dancers clad in ersatz flak jackets. The group moved through a progression of tightly executed formations while keeping eyes locked determinedly on the audience. Jazz dancers in “Slay” (adorned in crimson and gold) wheeled their limbs in the air, then moved into a single column where lithe movements amplified the anthem to prepossessing power. 

The Coast Academy faculty includes guest choreographers and resident teachers as well as alumni artists like Jasmyn Evered, Carly Kennedy and Kelly Lu. 

“So many awesome minds have created beautiful concepts and movements for our dancers to sink their teeth into,” added Darwin. 

In the culminating jazz routine, “Work It,” dancers in black leotards crouched upstage while one of their number strode confidently across their backs. They struck a final pose, thumbing pink compression straps in sync with the final lyric of Marie Davidson’s remixed track: “See ya later.” 

The Coast Dance Academy’s full studio will perform its year-end showcase on June 8 and 9 at the Raven’s Cry Theatre in Sechelt. Its theme will be “the old and the new,” featuring music ranging from nostalgic classics to contemporary hits.