Young Peninsula stars shine in Burnaby
It may showcase young performers from all over the Lower Mainland, but Carla Catherwood’s For The Luv Of It show Jan. 19 at Burnaby’s Michael J. Fox Theatre is replete with Peninsula talent – with a strong Spiral Dance connection.
In addition to singer-songwriter Anna Boots, 17 – who used to dance at the Spiral Studio – Spiral Dance Company dancers Shelby Noble, 15, and Laura Avery, 18, will also be spotlighted in solo features in the annual variety show, which is aimed not only at the public but also at professional producers, agents and casting directors.
Noble will sing the Alicia Keys song If I Ain’t Got You, while Avery will dance a lyrical solo to the song The Nicest Thing, by Kate Nash.
For the Spiral Dance Company this year’s show will be a second appearance in For The Luv Of It. And their ensemble jazz number, Hands On, choreographed in typically quirky fun style by Sherri Sherger, will be one of the last hurrahs for a closely-knit group of graduating dancers, including Avery, who have worked together at Spiral since the earliest days of their training.
Avery was three when she first began dancing at the studio 15 years ago.
“Dance has been part of me since I was little,” said the Earl Marriott Secondary student.
“I like it because you don’t have to use words to express what you are feeling. It helps me get through the day, after school.”
Feelings are definitely part of The Nicest Thing, which was choreographed by instructor Brock Jellison.
“He brought me this amazing song – the story is basically about a girl wishing a guy would like her,” Avery said.
“It’s very sad and it’s sung so passionately that it’s easy to interpret – there are so many moments when one can pause and slow down to express it, which is one of the things I love about the lyrical style.”
Studio owner and artistic director Loretta Sramek said Avery’s connection with the piece is strong, matching the power of the music.
“She changed in this piece, both as a performer and an artist,” she said.
“I’m not sure where it came from. She totally owns the piece.”
Sramek said the first time she and the other dancers got to see the solo was in a lull after an ensemble rehearsal.
“There was so much quietness and stillness while Laura performed the solo. I was upstairs and had to open my window and look down into the studio – it was totally mesmerizing.”
Sramek said she was also surprised to find Noble trying out for a solo singing spot at the For The Luv Of It auditions.
“She has a great voice, but I didn’t know until just before she auditioned that she was going out for it – it was ‘why didn’t you tell me you were auditioning?’ “
The auditions were a very supportive process, she said both on the part of the auditioners and on the part of the other young performers.
“A lot of them have known each other for years, so they were excited to find they were all going out for the same show.”
Sramek said she feels the the show helps supply a key developmental step for her dancers, who train in all styles from ballet to jazz, lyrical, modern, tap and hip hop, and perform at community events such as the B.C. Summer Games, Our Magic Christmas and many fundraisers.
“I think it’s important at this point in their training to have performing opportunities that have nothing to do with competition,” she said.
“It’s about sharing and artistry and getting experience with other professionals and pre-professionals in their field, and also exposure to other promoters and performers.”
The one note of sadness is that out of 11 dancers in the current company, eight are graduating this year.
“I don’t know how I’m going to make it through the year-end performance,” Sramek said.
“They were already a unique group when they first started together. They just meshed and jelled and supported each other and loved and laughed together and cried hysterically together.”
At the same time, the current company has left a legacy for upcoming dancers at the studio, she said.
“The dancers in this group have been huge mentors for the upcoming groups. They’ve set the bar of what the new youth company should look like.”
“It’s like a great family,” said Maxine Chadburn, one of the company dancers who will be continuing with the group.
“Most of us go to school together, too,” said dancer Suzanne Bazso.
“We see each other more than we see our families.”
“It’s like a home away from home,” added Chanelle Samuel.
The dancers agree that Hands On, which they learned in September, is a fun piece to finish the year with.
“It’s like all of the familiar jazz moves mixed together,” said Elissa Hanson.
“For those of us in our last year, it’s a great way to go out.”