Dance schools conclude year with well-seasoned wonders

Year-end dance recitals by two Sunshine Coast studios demonstrated a wide range of storytelling techniques during shows held last weekend in Gibsons and Sechelt.

Gibsons takes a bow

The Gibsons Dance Center took its cue from Antonio Vivaldi’s Four Seasons concertos during five performances by its Junior Intermediate and Senior corps at the Gibsons Heritage Playhouse, which concluded on June 19.

The company of Waldorf Ballet marked its sixth year of instruction in Sechelt with four renditions of Alice in Wonderland at the Raven’s Cry Theater, accompanied by a collection of music by Tchaikovsky assembled and arranged by American composer Carl Davis. The run of matinee and evening shows also closed on June 19.

In Seasons, the Gibsons Dance Center’s 42 distinct numbers included award-winning competition pieces like Sirens, in which saltwater seductresses woo a rope-girdled sailor. The competitive acrobatic team simulated waterborne buoyancy by dangling from a metal frame.

The show showed the versatility of the Gibsons dancers, eliciting steady cheers from the audience for displays of ballet, hip hop, jazz and modern styles, plus musical theatre. Through video projection of a recorded sequence, 20 dancers from the company illustrated their aerial prowess: performers hovered in an airy void, supported only by wisps of luminous fabric.

Each of the Gibsons pieces evoked a season of the year. The urban beats of Red Alert (performed by the hip hop ensemble) blazed with the sweltering intensity of summer. Pure Imagination—depicted by senior contemporary dancers—radiated the dreamlike litheness of spring.

Tap dancers presented an autumnal Thanksgiving Dinner, a Jazz Age plein air picnic whose fanciful victuals and light-footed cheer made Downton Abbey’s outings seem dour in comparison.

“We’re really still coming out of our COVID shell,” said instructor and choreographer Zoe Barbaro. “After our Nutcracker at Christmas, everything shut down again for a while. So this show represents us returning to full strength.”

Waldorf in Wonderland

Meanwhile, more than 60 young dancers of Waldorf Ballet delivered Alice in Wonderland as a heartfelt environmental parable. The group last performed the ballet at the Raven’s Cry Theater four years ago.

Alice, played by Natalie Martin, was charmed by fauna and flora into rhapsodic reveries: she befriends the White Rabbit (Gracelyn Mailey), the Cheshire Cat (Peyton Gray), and an array of flowers, flamingos, and butterflies.

Martin received first-place acknowledgments at Lower Mainland festivals this year, and will be attending the Boston Ballet School Summer Intensive for five weeks in July.

The White Queen (Sophia Cimbala) and Queen of Hearts (Scarlett McLash) defined storybook depictions of the characters, presenting each with ethereal lightness. As a result, the incarnadine empress’s order of decapitation (depicted by McLash using a violent two-armed swipe against her throat) produced a visceral jolt.

The respect shown early by Alice to ladybugs and grasshoppers is ultimately reciprocated when the diminutive creatures shelter her from the Queen of Hearts’s rage.

“I am so passionate about story ballets,” studio founder and instructor Johanna Waldorf, “and their ability to entertain, educate, and inspire any audience—yet still highlight the technique and dedication of our students.

“It allows for a broader appreciation of the art form within our community, bringing joy to those who know a lot about ballet to those who are watching for the very first time.”

Both studios offer summer sessions and camps. More information is available online at gibsonsdance.com and waldorfballet.com respectively.

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