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The Student News Site of McCallum High School

The Shield Online

The Student News Site of McCallum High School

The Shield Online

Mac Youth Dance Company proves ‘Perennial’ impact on students in annual spring show

Choreographed and directed by seniors, final showcase of the year highlights variety of styles, DAB opening
MAXWELL’S MASTERPIECE: Members of Zoe Maxwell’s choreographed dance for the spring student directed show ‘Perennial’ form a group pose.  For both the choreographers and directors the performance was an opportunity to show off their unique style of dance and bring together the dancers, the theme, and music to create a dance that resembled them. For junior Zoe Maxwell the performance was unique because while it was her third year performing in the show, it was her first time getting the chance to choreograph a dance and have a more hands-on role with the show.  “It was my last show with all of my senior friends and it was the first student directed show that I got to contribute to choreographically [which was special],” Maxwell said. “My favorite part of the experience was getting to showcase my creativity and seeing that come to life.”  Maxwell said her song choice inspired her choreography.  “Since I heard the song ‘MOVE’ by Beyonce I knew I wanted to choreograph it,” Maxwell said. “The tricky part was matching it to the themes of the dance show, but luckily the song mentions fire so I connected it to the element theme of the show,”  The role as choreographer proved to be a learning experience for Maxwell because the process of creating a dance differed from just performing in one. “The biggest challenge was managing the rehearsal time we were given and planning accordingly so that our dances would be finished in time for the show,” Maxwell said. “I took some inspiration from videos and choreography online, but other than that I just kind of improved to the song until I found moves I liked.”

The Mac Youth Dance Company performed in their spring dance concert, “Perennial”, in the MAC last weekend. The showcase was directed by seniors Ana Mejia, Olivia Hexsel, Spirit Smith, Gabriella Smith, Lucy Kuhn and Leyla Molina. The theme was picked because of its relation to nostalgic feelings and meaning: lasting for an infinite time. Saturday was additionally the grand opening of the new Dance Academy Building marking a celebration before the show itself. The grand opening consisted of community dance classes for Mother’s Day, a ribbon cutting by the Dance Directors of the program, as well as a commemorative performance from the Samba Knights. 

All the events leading up to the final showing of the student directed show, and later a celebration in the DAB with drinks, snacks, and a DJ.

Sophomore Elliana Rocap said the show was great at highlighting the work of seniors throughout their four years with the company. 

“The theme represents the legacy that the seniors want to leave,” Rocap said. “As a sophomore, I know how much this show meant to them as the last show with McCallum and how hard they worked to leave the school with the best show they could.”

The showcase displayed dances from beginner to advanced classes and a performance from students at Lamar and Burnet Middle Schools. 

Rocap said the new dance building will allow for more space to choreograph and rehearse in and become the hub for all things dance at Mac. 

“The dance building took a long time to get here but I am very excited that we finally have it,” Rocap said. “The grand opening was very special especially because we went to have one of our old directors on the phone to witness all of her hard work paying off.”

We are proud to present a gallery of “Perennial” and the DAB’s grand opening in this week’s Tuesday Top 10 photo essay.

THESE SENIORS ARE SIGNING OFF: For the annual student directed show, the senior student directors decided upon the theme, “Perennial,” as a way to commemorate their feelings of nostalgia toward and connection to the program as they face the end of their high school dance careers. 

Each with a different role, the six senior directors organized the show to make it flow seamlessly and worked out any issues that came up during the creative process.

Senior Gabriella Smith served as artistic director for the show.

“I was able to work closely with student choreographers in the process of creating their dances and putting their visions onto the stage,” Smith said. 

Senior Ana Mejia served as business director for the show. Her role in coordination with her other directors allowed her to incorporate ideas that she felt were important to the theme. 

“After one of the senior directors choreographed our class piece sophomore year, I began thinking about applying to be a director our senior year,” Mejia said. “My favorite parts of directing include applying what I learned in Mac dance over the years and working with a tight knit team.”

For Mejia, the experience was monumental since it marked her last moments with the dance program and she wanted to commemorate that. 

“After shadowing Tyler [Mankinen], last year’s business director, I felt prepared to take on the role,” Mejia said. “It was incredibly rewarding watching the final product of the many outside of school hours the student directors, dancers and technicians put into this show.”

The process for the six senior directors, however, wasn’t always streamlined and had moments where the team had to put their heads together. 

“It was very challenging choreographing three pieces, directing and dancing in two pieces,” Mejia said. “We worked together as a team and supported each other throughout the entire process.” 

The team was in charge, additionally, of setting up the timeline of the event, and rehearsals to improve on stage readiness. 

“I remember at the beginning of January we all agreed to start planning early so that we could give choreographers more time to think about their pieces,” Mejia said. “We wanted to have the choreographers follow the theme more closely so that they would have a more cohesive feel.” 

Caption by Chloe Lewcock. Photo by Sophie Leung-Lieu.

ONE FINAL DANCE: Senior El McGinnis performs her solo during the student-directed dance show “Perennial,” which took place over two nights at McCallum–Friday and Saturday. For McGinnis the solo performance was a bittersweet moment ending her high school dance career. 

While the show may have only occurred for an audience two times, the dancers spent about four weeks preparing the numerous dances.

For McGinnis, who was in four dances including her solo, the most challenging part was remembering the various dances. 

“Keeping up with the dances I was in, considering the short rehearsal times for each piece, was the hardest part,” McGinnis said. “My solo was also my favorite dance to perform though.”

While the last few hours of polishing off her dance before the show proved to be a challenge, bowing with her seniors at the end of the show made everything worth it for McGinnis.

“It was my favorite because it’s my last time bowing with my class and it was a memorable moment,” McGinnis said.  

Caption by Maya Tackett. Photo by Dave Winter.

POSITIVELY ‘PERENNIAL’: At the end of her solo in the piece “Petals,” junior Analise Bady does an arabesque on relevė. The number, choreographed by junior Catherine Haikola, was meant to display a petal’s journey through the wind, with each dancer playing an integral role in the motion.

“Each dancer represented a petal and at the end we came together to build one flower,” Bady said. “The movements were very flowy to emulate a petal drifting in the wind.”

Bady found that the most meaningful part of the piece came not from the performance but from putting it together.

“My favorite part about this piece was being able to bring Catherine’s vision for the dance to life,” Bady said. “I loved the idea of being flowers that represented a petals journey through dance.”

Because this show was Mac Youth Dance Co.’s presentation of student-directed works, Bady felt that the pieces had added meaning behind them.

“In my opinion, the best part of the dance show was dancing to many of my peers’ and friends’ choreography that they worked so hard to perfect,” Bady said. “Every piece was choreographed by a student. I decided not to choreograph this year but getting the opportunity to be in a variety of dances is always such a fun experience.”

Reporting by Alice Scott. Photo by Chloe Seckar-Martinez.

BALLERINA BOWS: Chamber Orchestra seniors perform the second movement of “Shostakovich String Quartet No. 8” for “Perennial” on Friday night. Senior violinist Lila Juenger said she was pleasantly surprised by the contrast between the piece and the ballet style of the choreography.

“I think it was a really bold choice to choose such an aggressive piece to pair with the light ballet style, but it ended up being really cool in the end,” Juenger said. “It was choreographed well to match the climax points and you could hear the crowd cheering during the most intense moments.” 

While the Chamber Orchestra performed the piece for UIL in February, none of the students had played it since. Juenger said the orchestra was able to polish the piece up once more for the dance show.

“I think our biggest struggle in performing was our rustiness on the piece,” Juenger said. “We hadn’t played it for a few months, so it was tough at first to dust it off. It showed me that when we need to, we are able to pull through and put on a good show. “

Juenger said her favorite part of “Perennial” was watching the performers before and after the orchestra played.

“It was really fun to watch them in their element and see what our classmates had been preparing, aside from the piece that we performed alongside them,” Juenger said.

For Juenger, the audience’s enthusiasm during every performance made the show even more enjoyable. 

“It’s a really different experience having such an interactive audience,” Juenger said. “At our usual concerts people are engaged in the music, whereas at ‘Perennial’ the audience is cheering and hyping up the dancers while they perform. It’s lovely to see such a supportive audience showing appreciation for the arts.”

Caption by Ingrid Smith. Photo by Dave Winter. 

A LOOK OF WHAT’S TO COME: The Lamar Middle School Dance Company was invited to perform with the McCallum Youth Dance Company in their show “Perennial” on Friday night. The show included dances from all Mac classes ranging from beginner to advanced. The inclusion of Lamar dance students in the performance gave both diversity to the show, and gave the middle-schoolers who would be attending McCallum a feel for what’s to come. 

Choreographed by Lamar dance directors Natalia Luna and Claire Wood as well as the company members themselves, the Lamar Dance Company performed “Malibu,” a routine set to Miley Cyrus’s song by the same name.

“I had a fun time performing in this show,” eighth-grade company member Danellie Rodriguez said. “I love doing the leaps, and I am happy to be on the team.”

For Rodriguez, the performance at “Perennial” was the last time performing with the Lamar Dance company, and first time stepping foot into high school life. 

“I am excited to be a part of the Mac Dance Company next year,” Rodriguez said. 

Friday’s performance was a reprise of the number that kicked off the second act of Lamar’s spring dance show, ‘Traveling through the USA,’ on May 3 in the Austin ISD Performing Arts Center. 

Caption by Campbell Epperly. Photo by Dave Winter.

IT’S MURDER ON THE DANCE FLOOR: Junior Julia Rasp performs her own choreography in the Junior class dance, “Undying,” this past weekend during the Mac Dance show, “Perennial.” 

After obsessing over the song “Murder on the Dance Floor” by Sophie Ellis-Baxter for many months, Rasp began to form a vision for the dance in her head. She never planned to choreograph for the show but decided to take a leap of faith when encouraged by one of the senior directors. 

“I thought, I’m just gonna go for it, and I’m so beyond glad I did.” Rasp said. 

Slowly but surely, her fun, off-putting and funky vision began to emerge. 

“My fellow juniors were so welcoming to my ideas and choreography,” Rasp said. “They never once made me feel stupid for any of my visions when it came to this dance.” 

Rasp loved the creative process of choreographing with her peers, and although her next concept is still up in the air, she plans to choreograph another dance for her senior year.

Photo and caption by Harper Maxwell.

DANCING THROUGH THE CHANGE: Senior Clara Hopkins, senior dance major, performs her final solo on Mac Youth Dance Company during their spring show, “Perennial.”

Hopkins moved from Spain in 2021, her sophomore year, and joined McCallum as a dance major; she finally felt connected to her new surroundings.

“When I moved from Spain, it felt like dancing and moving was the only thing that was still familiar when everything else was so foreign.” Hopkins said. 

She found friendship with this year’s junior class and will miss them the most when she leaves for college soon. She has learned a lot from Mac’s dance program and plans to take it all with her into the next chapter of her life. 

“A commitment is more than just committing to the field you already know,” Hopkins said, “A commitment is not only perfecting your interests but exploring the parts you don’t enjoy.”

Caption and photo by Harper Maxwell.

ORTON’S INSPIRATION: For senior Sofia Orton, the theme of “Perennial” stuck an immediate chord, and she knew where she wanted to focus her dance. 

“I connected my dance to the theme by choosing to dedicate my solo to my mother who passed [away] a few years ago,” Orton said. “Perennial means that something will exist for a longtime or even an infinite amount of time.”

Orton chose to perform the song “Amber” by 311 to convey her connection to the theme, and the importance it allowed her to portray of her life and story.

“My mother’s presence was unique, and it felt like the color amber,” Orton said. “Even though she is no longer with us anymore her memories still live throughout me, and ‘Amber’ was the perfect song.” 

Caption by Chloe Lewcock. Photo by Sophie Leung-Lieu.

NEW TO THE BUSINESS: Sophomore Maggie Brown dances alongside her Dance I classmates in “Pon de Replay.” The full dance was choreographed to a remix created by Brown, consisting of the hit Rhianna song in cadence with “Lose My Breath” by Stray Kids and “Womanizer” by Britney Spears. Brown’s contribution allowed her the unique opportunity to apply her skill sets from her theater and piano experience to the Mac Dance program.

“I am not a dancer by any means,” Brown said. “I am just kind of taking the class for my credit, but I am a piano and theater major, so it was fun to apply my music knowledge to something that I usually don’t get the chance to apply it to.” 

While actively involved in musical theater, Brown has had her fair share of dancing. That being said, the experience still possessed many new and unfamiliar elements. 

“In musical theater we do a lot of jazz-modern style [dances],” she said. “While this [the dance show] was kind of more hip-hop and pop, so it was definitely a little out of my comfort zone, but I still found it to be really fun.” 

The students of Dance I took around a month and a half to pick out music, choreograph the dance, and perfect it for the day of the show. 

“It was really cool to see the whole process of putting the piece together,” Brown said. “And seeing all the little tweaks we made to the choreography overtime that went into the final version.” 

For Brown, all the effort was worth it in the end.

“It [the dance] has really changed from the first vision we had,” she said. “And I think when we got up and finally performed it on stage, that was our best run of the dance.” 

Although Brown really enjoyed performing, her favorite part of the night was reserved for a different aspect of the show.

“Watching the other performances was really inspiring,” Brown said. “Especially the dances from the more advanced dancers because for those people, dance is their thing, so it was really rewarding to see them in their element.” 

Caption by JoJo Barnard. Photo by Chloe Seckar-Martinez.

PERFORMING PROFESSIONALLY: Juniors Zalie Mann and Zoe Maxwell dance together in a Bob Fosse-inspired piece, choreographed by junior Sasha Grapko, during their last tech rehearsal in preparation for taking the show “Perennial” to the stage.

The dance embodied a theatrical style and it allowed the dancers to channel their emotions into the piece.

“Everyone except me fell down at the end, and I had a moment looking at the audience,” Mann said. “I loved this part because I got to be super dramatic.”

The Mac Youth Dance Company spring show not only allows the members of the program to perform, but it also gives the dancers the opportunity to choreograph and teach even if they haven’t had any previous experience in the realm. 

“The student directed show is important because it’s an opportunity to demonstrate how professional our company is through a show completely directed, choreographed and run by students.” Mann said.

After choreographing this year, she is hoping to be a director for next year, her final year as a senior.

Caption and photo by Harper Maxwell.

A SAMBA SERENADE: The Samba Knights percussion club performs prior to the official opening of the Dance Arts Building on Saturday evening as a way to commemorate the opening.  This event marked Samba Knights’ final performance of the school year, as well as marked the start to the last dance performance for Mac Youth Dance company seniors. 

Junior member James Nesbitt said this performance was to celebrate the building’s completion of construction with a big audience.

“I always love performing Samba when people are watching us,” Nesbitt said. “It was a happy time.”

Given it was the percussion group’s last performance, Nesbitt said his goal was to just have a good time.

“I feel like we ended off on a good note,” Nesbitt said. “So it’s just a fun time, playing and being with the other people in the club.”

Caption by Camilla Vandegrift. Photo by Chloe Seckar-Martinez.

MAXWELL’S MASTERPIECE: Members of Zoe Maxwell’s choreographed dance for the spring student directed show “Perennial” form a group pose. 

For both the choreographers and directors the performance was an opportunity to show off their unique style of dance and bring together the dancers, the theme, and music to create a dance that resembled them.

For junior Zoe Maxwell the performance was unique because while it was her third year performing in the show, it was her first time getting the chance to choreograph a dance and have a more hands-on role with the show. 

“It was my last show with all of my senior friends and it was the first student directed show that I got to contribute to choreographically [which was special],” Maxwell said. “My favorite part of the experience was getting to showcase my creativity and seeing that come to life.” 

Maxwell said her song choice inspired her choreography. 

“Since I heard the song ‘MOVE’ by Beyonce I knew I wanted to choreograph it,” Maxwell said. “The tricky part was matching it to the themes of the dance show, but luckily the song mentions fire so I connected it to the element theme of the show,” 

The role as choreographer proved to be a learning experience for Maxwell because the process of creating a dance differed from just performing in one.

“The biggest challenge was managing the rehearsal time we were given and planning accordingly so that our dances would be finished in time for the show,” Maxwell said. “I took some inspiration from videos and choreography online, but other than that I just kind of improved to the song until I found moves I liked.”

Caption by Chloe Lewcock. Photo by Chloe Seckar-Martinez.

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