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The City Journals

From year-end showcase to auditions, Hillcrest dancers want to ‘just dance’

Sep 10, 2020 02:34PM ● By Julie Slama

Dancing separately, yet together, Hillcrest High Dance Company performed their finale for their online concert, “Rudiment.” (Screenshot)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Alice Conder heard the horns honking, the sirens blaring and watched all the people walking the streets when she experienced New York City as a Hillcrest High sophomore who traveled there for performances with the school’s concert choir.

That hustle and bustle of a large city stayed with her two years later as she choreographed her senior dance, “City Sounds,” which contributed to a unique concert by Hillcrest High Dance Company. This past school year’s showcase, “Rudiment,” was held virtually in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It was quite the experience,” Hillcrest Dance Company adviser Chelsea Lujan said. “I’ve never done a concert like that, but I’m still glad we were able to perform. I felt it was important to share what the kids had worked so hard on, and I’m really proud of the resiliency of our student officers. They’re the backbone of the company. They weren’t happy to just let the year go. They helped to make this happen and kept our dancers’ spirits up.”

The concert, which included 18 dances, was a showcase of student-choreographed dances, senior spotlights and Dance Company routines that have been performed throughout the year.

Conder said that the officers—president Leah Christensen, vice president Erika Parker and herself as secretary— choreographed the showcase namesake, “Rudiment,” at the beginning of the school year and performed it at an assembly then. They performed it again at the Utah High School Dance Festival, where it was adjudicated.

“We changed it, worked through some transitions to make it better and had planned to perform it for our concert,” Conder said. “What we did was dance a section of it and that was edited in with the videos of the other two performances. It made it more interesting with different backgrounds and had better sound.”

She said that they named it “Rudiment” since it was a “cool word with a cool meaning,” which symbolically has the beginning of the year as the root or base and they ended the year “much bigger.” It was the ending piece of the concert.

“It was the epitome of how the year started and how we ended it together,” Lujan said.

For the concert, several dancers who choreographed numbers asked each dancer to perform the routine individually and then, those were edited together to create a dance together.

Conder said she was doing that on top of studying for her final exams as well as her AP biology test, which also was online.

“It felt stressful, but I’m glad we did it,” she said. “My brother knew how to edit, so he taught me some tricks.”

She also danced her senior solo, “Spotlight,” incorporating some of her favorite moves.

“I like dancing. I like using all sorts of movements when I dance. It’s interesting how the human body is flexible, muscular—I think that’s why I like biology,” she said, adding that she plans to major in that at Utah State University this fall as well as take a dance class. “I prefer dance as it’s not as competitive; it’s more peaceful than other sports.”

The concert also incorporated dances which were choreographed and taught by three Ririe-Woodbury dancers, who helped put them together for the concert. 

However, the concert wasn’t without a hiccup.

In the program notes, Lujan thanked Google and YouTube for answering editing questions and “keeping me from crying when I was 20 hours into editing and my videos disappeared.” But while delivering the concert, Facebook shut it down after about an hour since the Dance Company was using copyrighted music.

“I didn’t think about that. We were learning as we were doing it and just wanted to have our performance. I knew we couldn’t use Zoom or Google Meet to put on the concert. YouTube Live would have run into the same issue. What we ended up doing was pulling up a second stream to finish our last numbers and now I have it on a Google Drive to share with anyone who had problems viewing it,” she said.

Besides the year-end concert, the Dance Company also performed in Canyons first-ever district-wide dance concert, where all school dance companies were invited to perform for each other in early January.

“We have awesome talent in our district, and this was a way to showcase our programs,” Lujan said. “We had a couple hundred come to Hillcrest to watch them dance. It was amazing.”

The squad also danced at the state festival held in February, and at 43-school Utah High School Dance Festival, just the week before the soft closure of schools.

“We danced two pieces and got feedback on what went well and what we should work on. It’s not a competition where we receive trophies, but it is focused more on dance—how you create it and you’re able to take that feedback and discuss it with your dance company. I’m really proud of our excellent rating,” she said. 

Conder, who has danced with the company for two years, was one of three dancers who met the athletic letter requirements, which included service hours, choreography and performance.

“I was able to do it through a lot of hours working with Dance Company and then, certainly, the musical,” she said, referring to Dance Company’s involvement with “42nd Street” last fall, which won the state musical theatre association’s award for “best choreography.”

“Every year, Dance Company performs in it and has a special number,” she said, adding that she participated all four years in the school musicals. “Dance Company is really fun to be in. There is so much we do together. This last year, we learned pieces of Ririe-Woodbury’s dance in classes and then went to see them perform, went to an escape room, saw the new ‘Lion King,’ and had a pool party. We see a lot of each other. I know, they’ll figure out somehow how to do things this year.”

It already meant that the auditions were held virtually for the first time.

The dancers tried out for the coed squad after teaching themselves the required steps, by filming themselves dancing and submitting it. While reviewing their technique, Lujan also checks to ensure her dancers maintain a 3.0 GPA, “We are Dance Company, but we’re a part of the school and as students, they need to keep that part up.”

Of the 27 members chosen for the squad, 15 are returning Dance Company members.

“No matter what school looks like this fall, these kids want to dance,” Lujan said. “I can’t tell you how many times I heard that it felt good to dance in amongst the uncertainty for our concert. So, this fall, if we have to be out on the football field, 12 feet apart, we will dance. It’s important that we do.”