By ANEESAH AKBAR and MARCELLA DECOUD
UHS recently hosted its annual Dance Invitational, a tradition that began when Ellen Prince, the previous dance director, was looking for possible fundraising ideas for the Dance Department. She did not want a competition but rather a showcase for the arts. Prince partnered with UCI faculty to make the Dance Invitational a reality.
UHS Dance Company kicked off the show with an energy-filled performance of the hip-hop number “Terminators,” choreographed by Shivani Lamba (Jr.) and Emi Takahata (Sr.). Complete with matching costumes and glittering face paint, the opening number of the show definitely hooked members of the audience.
Lamba said, “Dancing Terminators was so much fun because of the mix of sharp and groovy movements. My co-choreographer and I have different styles and merging them together allowed us to create a more dynamic piece.”
Irvine High School’s Dance Team took the stage next, performing a mesmerising slow number called “The Burden.” The dancers’ beautiful, fluid sky-blue dresses billowed around them as they spun around the stage, balancing their elegant azure glasses. Newport Harbor High School followed with its number, “Until We Go Down.” The dancers’ colorful gowns created a blur of hues as they moved to the beat, and the use of a large, ornate golden picture frame created the eerie illusion of an actual portrait.
Some of the dances, including “Hanging By A Thread” by Irvine High School, “A Day in the Life” by Sunny Hills and “Gravity” by Brea Olinda High School, had more complicated tricks and stunts. One such dance was performed by the members of Northwood High School’s dance team, who twirled and spun about the stage in the graceful dance “Once Upon A Dream”. Suddenly the dancers were carrying another member, lifting her over themselves as she waved her arms to the rhythm of the music.
Brea Olinda High School added a fresh twist to the show with their upbeat Spanish-style number “Too Spicy.” The dancers’ traditional Spanish updos with flowers behind their ears and lacy black costumes added to the heat of the number while their perfectly synchronized choreography captivated the audience.
UHS then took the stage again with the graceful and powerful number, “Dragon’s Breath.” Vanessa Kisega (Fr.), one of only two freshmen on Dance Company, had an impressive solo in the piece. She said, “Being the only freshmen puts a lot of pressure on [us], but that’s not how I feel because of how Dance Company is such a friendly and family-like environment. Dancing with my sister also makes performing onstage more comfortable and memorable.”
Vanessa’s sister, Claudia Kisega (Jr.) has also been in Dance Company since her freshman year. She was in the piece as well and said, “Although my sister and I have been dancing together for a long time, it was really weird to be in a high school performance with her. But I’m really glad she is part of something that is such an important element in my high school experience.”
Soon after, Corona Del Mar High School took the stage with the number “Rebels and Queens,” adding a unique element to the show with a projected backdrop of graffiti. The dance depicted three “cops” struggling to capture the remaining “graffiti artists” and imprison them. The dancers’ unwavering energy and impressively choreographed fight scenes made this number truly memorable.
Sunny Hills High School wrapped up the first half of the show with the quick and humorous dance, “Stress.” The piece began with the dancers sitting in desks wearing school uniforms and listlessly reading their textbooks. Suddenly, they threw their books aside and burst into dance, capturing the essence of feeling stressed during a long school day and eliciting several giggles from the audience. By the end of the number, they’d all returned to their desks as if nothing had ever happened.
After intermission, Newport Harbor High School performed a dance to “Bottom of The River” by Delta Rae. The dance was very well-coordinated and had an ominous atmosphere. Corona Del Mar High School’s performance of “Journey to Freedom” was also incredibly unique in its “prison” theme.
Northwood High School performed “Dreaming of You” to “Wicked Games” by James Vincent McMorrow. The song choice was suitable for the dance, and Northwood did an amazing job in extracting the emotion and power in the song through the performance. On the other hand, “Going Home” by Sunny Hills High School was a sweet, gentle dance that was easily a crowd favorite. The dancers’ grace and serenity made for a stellar performance overall.
APA Repertory Academy performed its dance “Torrential Shift” to the upbeat song “Clubbed to Death” by Rob Dougan. The performance was significantly different from the other dances, from the song choice to the costumes. Overall, APA’s eccentric choreography and astounding costumes made for a memorable performance.
Newport Harbor’s last dance, “Hollaback Girl,” left nothing to be desired. The enthusiastic dancers thrilled the audience with powerful, fast-paced choreography. They wore bedazzled black leotards with sleek black shorts while waving matching black handkerchiefs. The dancers’ incessant vigor as they danced the complicated number made for a very spirited performance.
UHS finished off the show with the graceful number, “Adventures Await” to “Doorways” by Radical Face. It was choreographed by Momoko Ishizuka (Sr) and was both playful and lighthearted.
Angelica Busciglio (Sr.), President of Dance Company, said, “What makes Invitational unique is that not only does it give the audience exposure to different choreographic styles, but it [also] brings dance departments together to share their art and inspire one another.”
The Dance Invitational drew in large audiences on both nights of the show, with spectators from every participating school joining in to support their talented teams. The variety of dance styles showcasing the unique culture of each school merged to create an exceptional performance. UHS Dance Company will also be performing in the Dance Showcase and Annual Show during the course of this school year.