Ten agile middle and high school dancers wearing black pants and sparkling red tops did splits, jumps and ripples — the dance equivalent of the wave — Tuesday night.
They are members of the Henry County Dance Ensemble, who danced in front of a wintry backdrop as Michael Bublé’s smooth, jazzy version of “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” played. They also did a kick line, sometimes shoulder high, among other moves.
Santa (Dave Meyer, a learning disabilities teacher at Fieldale-Collinsville Middle School) joined the dancers on the Magna Vista High School stage during the last part of the dance.
The dancers were taking part in a dress rehearsal for Arts Alive!, which is set for Sunday at Magna Vista.
An estimated 1,000 students from elementary through high school are participating through visual art or performing arts (dance, choral, instrumental or drama), according to Corbin Campbell, production coordinator and assistant principal at Fieldale-Collinsville Middle School. He said about 700 to 750 of the students are involved in the performances.
Visitors may see the art exhibit (including paintings, drawings and a few sculptures) and community partner exhibit from 4 to 6 p.m. Sunday in the Magna Vista lobby. The performances will begin at 6 p.m. in the auditorium. Admission is free.
Performing arts groups include, in addition to the Henry County Dance Ensemble, the Carver/Campbell Court Singers; Mount Olivet Singers; Axton Singers; Drewry Mason Singers; Rich Acres Singers; Collinsville Primary/Sanville Singers; Stanleytown Singers; John Redd (Smith) Singers; bands and choirs from Laurel Park and Fieldale-Collinsville (F-C) middle schools and Bassett and Magna Vista High schools; the F-C handbell choir; and comedic performances by students from the two high schools.
The Henry County Staff Ensemble (about 30 teachers and staff) will sing and dance.
“This is a strong representation of our arts curriculum across the division and a wonderful increase of our elementary students in showcasing their fine arts classes,” Campbell said in a news release.
Cameryn Blair said being part of the Henry County Dance Ensemble “is really fun.”
Fellow dancer Alexis Mize said: “I love dancing. It’s cool to get together from different parts of the county and make friends.”
Cameryn and Alexis are seventh-graders at F-C.
Robin Walmsley, an eighth-grade English teacher at F-C, directs the dance ensemble. Her daughter, Taylor Walmsley, who graduated from Bassett High School in 2008 and is now a cosmetologist, is assistant director and a member of the ensemble.
Robin Walmsley said the dance ensemble was chosen from about 60 girls who tried out in September.
The dance ensemble is performing a second routine in Arts Alive!: a lyrical dance to “Where the Light Gets In,” performed by Sennen.
“Lyrical dancing is a relatively recent form of dance coming from a fusion of jazz dance and ballet. Aside from having a beautiful and expressive choreographic vocabulary, it’s also one of the most pleasurable forms to dance,” according to dance.lovetoknow.com.
Alexis Mize said the lyrical dance is her favorite of the two dances the ensemble is performing. She described it as “pretty.” Ensemble members wear white, flowing costumes for the lyrical dance.
Robin Walmsley, who said she has danced all her life, said the lyrical dance routine conveys working together to overcome adversity — reaching for the light.
Eighth-grader Ashlan Gordon performed with F-C’s choir and handbell choir. “It’s really cool. It’s a good experience for all the schools to come together,” she said.
Glenda Inman, choral music teacher at F-C, said Arts Alive! is “a very influential way” of showing the community what schools in Henry County are doing in fine arts. She said this is the third year it has been done, and student enthusiasm has increased during that time. The first year, students didn’t know what to expect. “Now they are excited about being in it and being a part of it,” she said.
Choral students at Laurel Park Middle School sang and did a lively choreography number holding giant candy canes to “Sparklejollywinklejiingly” from the Broadway musical “Elf.” The group also performed “A Holly Jolly Celebration (arranged by Douglas E. Wagner), including “A Holly Jolly Christmas,” “The Night Before Christmas Song” and “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”
Laurel Park choir member Kristel Hairston, who is in the eighth grade, said of being in Arts Alive!: “It teaches you a lot of new tricks to singing that you don’t know about.” For instance, she learned that to hold notes, a singer tightens the diaphragm.
The Laurel Park band also performed, by itself or combined with the school choir. One of the numbers the band rehearsed was “Eagle Mountain Overture,” a concert festival piece that has fast and slow parts, according to band director Susan Branham.
“We’re hoping they (students) get excited, inspired, take it back home, and that those who didn’t take part will wish they had,” she said of Arts Alive!
Sidney McClure, a Laurel Park eighth-grader who plays French horn, said he is “learning to be more professional on stage.”
Also during the show, BHS student August Albanese delivers a funny monologue, “Brumbly the Elf” by Wade Bradford, to several other BHS students portraying elf-recruits. During his routine orientation speech, Brumbly says such gems as: “The number one rule here at Santa’s workshop is, ‘When the fat man is on the floor, look busy’”; “Make sure when you are working alongside the conveyor belt you do not wear jingle bell sleeves. Last year, Happy the Elf lost an arm. Not so happy any more”; and “Don’t listen to rumors about Mrs. Claus and the Easter Bunny ... .”
Another of the BHS performances is a group of blind-folded students who hit sticks together to the music of “Arise My Love” by contemporary Christian group NewSong.
BHS junior Thomas Craig said being blindfolded makes him and the other group members concentrate more. He said of Arts Alive!: “I love it: seeing different performers. Things they come up with, it’s amazing.”
Dr. Jared Cotton, superintendent of Henry County Schools, said arts education and Arts Alive! emphasize such things as creativity, hard work, dedication and endurance. Arts Alive! helps showcase what schools are doing in the arts and is a recruiting tool to encourage students to participate in the arts, he said.