By Dianna Mendoza, Mary Nguyen and Annie Lam
Santa Ana College’s dance department showcased Gentle Strength, a program choreographed by students, at Phillips Hall Theatre May 5 through May 7.
The production consisted of eight different performances demonstrating a wide range of dance styles such as contemporary, modern and hip-hop with a cast of 30 dancers and two producers.
Heather Gillette, chair of the dance department, wanted the students to challenge themselves emotionally and physically as they prepared for the show.
“Our program is about asking students to research, find what is meaningful to them, share their opinions, how to lay out stories whether it is literal or abstract, and to challenge themselves from musical perspectives,” Gillette said.
The choreographers shared their personal stories behind the individual pieces with the audience, explaining how they all explored dance movements that expressed themselves and their emotions.
Student Catalina Leon choreographed the piece Diazepam that displayed her own struggles with anxiety as her emotions were mirrored in the movements by the dancers.
Choreographers participated in the show by dancing and playing different characters in multiple pieces, working together to align their visions.
“I was a choreographer for this concert, and in three other pieces, so it was hard learning the choreography for multiple performances because I had to express emotion with each piece,” said Mary Leopo, one of the choreographers.
Students spent most of the semester preparing their pieces.
“It was really different coming to this show from high school dance. Each dance is eight minutes long but you’re so focused it keeps you interested the entire time. It’s an intense and emotional production,” dance student Sara Olson said.
Asphyxia started out as two solos and converged into a phenomenal duet.
“My partner and I started off with our own solos for the audition about two struggles of our lives and we later collaborated and worked it out,” said Laura Chavez, one of the participants in Asphyxia. “My character is very vulnerable and it is an internal dance, and it was myself on stage.”
Choreographer Elizabeth Sanchez-Reyes shocked attendee Vivian Trieu with her hip-hop piece It’s Lit!
“The dance moves just kept me on my toes the entire time and I truly love the energy and how edgy the dance, the people and the set are,” Sanchez-Reyes said.
Students were able to demonstrate a variety of choreographies, and at the same time organize the showcase and highlight their dance skills.