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Storytelling Through Dance at Kingswood Oxford’s Choreographer Showcase

Kate Beck. Photo credit: David Newman

The Choreographer Showcase took place at Kingswood Oxford School in West Hartford in late November, and featured five pieces by students who worked with professional choreographers.

Light Company. Photo credit: David Newman

Submitted by Jackie Pisani, Kingswood Oxford School

It’s next to impossible to capture the mood, movement, and music of the Choreographer Showcase if you weren’t fortunate enough to see Wyvern talent on display in the Roberts Theater on Nov. 22. No one knew quite what to expect but only to anticipate a first-class program conceived by Director of Theater Kyle Reynolds whose aim is to transform the performing arts curriculum into a true triple threat one – that’s singing, dancing, and acting – in theater parlance.

In building the dance curriculum, a Marley floor was recently installed on the stage.

Reynolds hired four top-notch choreographers – Mary Cadorette-Daly, Avery Casasanta, Rosie Karabetos, and Geo Mantilla – to work with our students for 10 weeks. These choreographers are working actors, Broadway performers, dancers, musicians, photographers, arts advocates, athletic dancers, ballerinas, and street dancers.

The student-dancers performed five pieces, and Mantilla performed “No One Knows Me” and Karabetos performed “Do It Without You.”

Prior to the show, the students viewed a news clip from this summer of a newscaster ribbing Prince William’s son’s interest in ballet. Reynolds choreographed “The Appropriate Response,” a piece that critiqued the newscaster’s view head-on, showing how limiting the media can be to young man’s self-expression.

In the number, Joey Fago ’20 of Amston, sat blindfolded on a chair while four dancers wearing costumes of newsprint fabric surrounded him. Towards the end of the piece, Fago removes the blindfold off and dances dramatically in a powerful performance. Reynolds said, “I knew I wanted to respond to that newscaster using dance. It was the only way I could appropriately respond. There are so many articles about how boys shouldn’t be dancing and how it’s toxic so when we have someone as talented as Joey, I wanted to make sure we utilize his talents and take a stand.”

“Love and Hate,” choreographed by Mantilla, showed racial injustices in a respectful way. Cadorette-Daly’s beautiful work to “Bridge Over Troubled Water demonstrated friendship, bridging gaps, and lending a hand to those who need it. Casasanta’s “Light Company,” a technical piece, showcased the Merce Cunningham technique, in a light, upbeat manner that featured each dancers’ individuality, especially Kate Beck’s ’21 of Tolland extraordinary expression and great precision. The piece de resistance of the showcase was the finale “Awoo!” by Karabetos, a high energy number with a stand-out solo by Frank Pu ’23 of New Britain and China.

“Rosie is so smart about the way that she choreographs from a human perspective. She’s able to get out each kids’ perspective of their own passion. When I would watch her rehearsals, I was consistently amazed by her focus on the kids. It was all about them. ‘What are you feeling right now, and how can you add that to the dance?’” said Reynolds.

“Not every independent school has this opportunity to bring in professional choreographers and work with kids. The showcase was truly a piece of art that was puzzled together by kids who have never done dance before in their lives to kids who dance 40 hours a week. To get that opportunity at KO is new and ground-breaking for us. Some of these kids I’ve never seen them happier as when they are dancing.”

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Frank Pu. Photo credit: David Newman

Awoo! Photo credit: David Newman

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