Original Works annual production features high school artists
By Hannah Spranger, Reporter
Through a wealth of carefully choreographed dances, Vashon Center for the Arts explored numerous questions and emotions in its Original Works production. The show took place at Katherine L. White Hall, the beautiful 300 seat theatre. Many of the pieces focused on mature topics, hoping to raise awareness and initiate change.
Original Works is an annual dance production comprised of separate pieces, each one organized and choreographed independently by professionals or the dancers themselves. Unlike a more standard dance performance, Original Works focuses more on individual stories within single dances. This year, the performances took place from March 22 – 24.
Original Works used to be a part of Vashon Center for the Arts’ (VCA) spring production, but it eventually grew popular enough to become its own show. Since its inception, Original Works has branched away from the spring show’s classic ballet — the show now features other styles of dance, including hip hop, tap, and jazz.
“Typically, there are no dance schools that allow students to do their own choreography, and so that is kind of what is different about this,” associative director Crissy Baker said. “We want to encourage that creative process and also teach students about the process for auditioning.”
This auditioning aspect sets Original Works further apart from other dance productions on Vashon.
“The most challenging part [of the process] I would say is probably coordinating with everyone to make rehearsals, to get it done by the auditions and then just to be really happy with the piece you’re putting forward,” sophomore dancer Mackenzie Shore said.
Auditioning also leads to difficult decisions because not every dance makes it into the final production.
“It’s hard to decide if a piece is not ready,” Baker said. “You want to give everybody the chance, but sometimes you’ll see some works that are just not quite there technically.”
Choreographing independent pieces is also difficult, especially as the dancers must perform in three rounds of auditions. Once the choreography begins, dancers turn to a variety of sources for inspiration.
“[What inspires me is] the music and the words to the music, and I also like watching other people’s dance videos, and I get inspiration from them,” freshman Arianna Vickers said.
Others take a different approach in order to tell a more personal story. Shore spoke to the effect of being in sophomore Tamsen Henry’s choreographed dance, which explored the transition from carefree childhood to harder aspects of life while growing up.
“It’s super cool because [Henry] used her life experiences and emotions and channeled it into the dance,” Shore said.
Original Works and its process poses difficulties that are not often present in other dance performances, and this presents unusual opportunities for its participants.
“I think the thing that is the most important is that these students grow with this process, so what they’ve done maybe in the past [compared] to what they’re doing now is just … honestly incredible,” Baker said. “You will see maybe even first-year college level [students] not even producing some of the stuff that is … coming out from our senior-level dancers.”
Original Works allows for personal growth as well.
“It has for sure taught me how to meet deadlines, work with other people, struggle in pieces, and … figure out stuff,” Shore said.
The months of auditioning, practicing, and preparing all lead to one weekend when the dancers leave everything on the stage for the audience to appreciate.
“[The most rewarding part is] the final product for sure,” Baker said. “In the end, I just sit here going, ‘I love this — this is so fun because it’s so creative and different.’”