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Murray High Centennial Dance Festival brings students together

Feb 27, 2017 02:29PM ● Published by Julie Slama

Murray High School students already are learning the music for the one-hour festival that celebrates the high school’s centennial. (Rosie Banchero/Murray High School)

By Julie Slama | julie@mycityjournals.com
 
On one night, students from Murray’s elementaries, junior highs and high school will come together performing in a dance festival marking Murray High School’s centennial.
 
The one-hour event, which will feature 11 folk dances from several cultures that are or have been prominent in Murray, will take place at 7:30 p.m., Thursday, May 18 on Murray High’s football field, 5440 State St.
 
“This brings all the schools together through the arts to celebrate Murray’s history of education and our culture and our people,” Murray High teacher Leesa Lloyd said.  “Plus, this festival is giving our students experience by working with professionals to learn the dances and music.”
 
Murray City Cultural Arts Director Mary Ann Kirk, who is coordinating the event, has professional choreographers working with each grade from second through sixth in all seven elementary schools. 
 
“Each grade is learning a different dance that tells the story of when people settled in Murray,” she said.
 
Second-graders are learning the Maypole dance from England while third-graders are being taught an Italian dance.  Fourth-graders are learning a dance from Sweden; fifth-graders are studying an Armenian dance; and sixth-graders are being taught a Greek dance.
 
“We’re planning to tell the stories of actual people who came to Murray, graduated and became a part of our community — and of those families who still live here,” Kirk said.
 
Secondary dance students will have a chance to learn an African dance to couple with stories of current students who are refugees from Africa.
 
Secondary instrumental students already are learning music for the festival and high school students will have the opportunity to audition for the narrator roles.
 
The festival also will include community performers sharing Hispanic, Polynesian and Iranian dances.
 
“Murray City and Murray High School had a lot of immigrants from all over the world because of our smelter industry history.  This dance festival will depict these ethnic groups,” Lloyd said and added that her students will learn its dance about one month before the festival.
 
Kirk said that typically each dance will be taught in four or five sessions starting around spring break.
 
Original musical scores for the opening and closing is being written by composer and producer Clive Romney, who is the executive director of Utah Pioneer Heritage Arts.
 
“The first song has fun lyrics that talks about ‘Murray is my home’ and has 100 names of families living here being chanted in the background.  It also includes instruments from the countries of people who came to settle here,” Kirk said.
 
The final song talks about the high school’s history of being called both the Smelterites and the Spartans.
 
“It’s called, ‘One Child at a Time’ and brings in the educational component and the influence of others,” she said.
 
The 3,000-member cast will draw a packed house, so currently Kirk is looking at parking options.  She said the performance would be reminiscent of the 2002 Olympic dance festival the city held.
 
If there is inclement weather, the show will be divided into two times and be performed that same evening in Murray High’s gymnasium.
 
“This festival is an opportunity to pull our community together and it’s a great artistic experience for our students through music, movement, choral, theater — all the art forms.  The school system brought together so many cultures of our community.  This show reflects the tapestry of our schools with threads woven together to create our community,” she said.
 
Principal John Goldhardt said that the dance festival is an opportunity for both Murray students and the community.
 
“These students and the community will remember this dance festival and realize Murray has a rich history and rich cultural heritage and we celebrate that in our 100 years,” he said.
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