BBA showcases student creativity in dance, theater

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MANCHESTER — Some talented, ambitious young actors, dancers and directors at Burr and Burton Academy have been hard at work creating original theater and dance pieces, and they're taking a big risk — putting those efforts on stage, in front of an audience, to get feedback on their creations.

The students' efforts will be on display at the Theater and Dance New Works Project, scheduled for Friday, Jan. 26 at 6:30 p.m. at BBA's Riley Center for The Arts. It will feature original choreography which has been workshopped after school with BBA dance director Claudia Shell-Raposa, and original theatrical writing workshopped with drama director Jim Raposa and English faculty members.

Last year, two of the written pieces presented at New Works went on the win the Weston Young Playwrights Award and the Dorset Theatre Festival's Young Writers Award.

The goal, Jim Raposa said, is to pull the curtain back on the creative process, embolden students to share their work and nurture their creative concepts.

'By having an evening where the presentation is not about the spectacle, but about the written word or the choreographed movement, [it] redefines the focus onto the basics of each art form the story telling," Raposa said. "These young artists are the voice of the future. They will continue to tradition of story telling through whatever medium they subscribe to."

The students' work is ambitious. Take Giana Delossantos, a sophomore at BBA, who has written a play titled "Hurricane Harvey" which views that recent natural disaster through the eyes of a mother and daughter dealing with the storm's aftermath.

"People may think writing is just writing words, but really it's a lot more than that. The words have meaning and you have to write it in a way that keeps the audience's interest as well as making them feel," Delossantos told the Journal. "My thinking was that I had to write about the natural disaster itself and to put in those scary details that would convey to the audience how serious it was but as well as incorporating a relatable experience. To do both of those things is pretty complicated."

BBA senior Riley Vogel is a long-time dance and a first-time choreographer, and his piece is "a very earthy, ballet musical theater variation" from Peter Pan.

"I started the piece about two months ago ... and I just wasn't connecting to it. I threw that out the door, and I just made this one up about two hours ago," Vogel said. "It's super fun, and I feel really connected to the music and it feels like I'm putting my best foot forward. My creative process was very short and immediate, but totally worth it."

For Grace MacFadyen, who is participating in the event for the third time, the creative process works best in collaboration.

"You may come up with moves that you think are going to work really well, and then you have your dancers do it and you're like, "oh I want to change this," she said. "It's interesting how the dancers help you.

"I like giving my dancers the opportunity to dance and I also like being able to express myself," she said.

In contrast, senior Daniel Jackson, who has choreographed a piece inspired by the Broadway musical "Kinky Boots," has learned he works best on his own.

"I've found that the easiest way for me to choreograph is not in a space with other people," Jackson said. "Sometimes it helps, but usually when I'm alone I can find things that work and things that don't so I know what direction to go. Usually my creative process doesn't stop until the day before the show, mainly because I want things to be perfect."

It's a time-consuming and demanding art form, Jackson said, but one that has proven immensely satisfying. "I've enjoyed the freedom of it. It's great to have this free range and capability to present a piece that's unique from your perspective," he said.

Junior Olivia Saunders will be directing two student pieces that were written for last year's New Works Project. This time the pieces are being memorized and performed, and it's her first time she's directing on her own. (You'll see her work again later this year, as assistant director of BBA's production of "Rent.")

"Because this is something that I want to do, it's really fun to have a chance to do it on my own," Saunders said. "It's really cool for me to find my own directing style, and figure out how that differs from other people I've worked with."

Dancers Yu Yao Sutherland Lovick and Koben Pottala said the creative process allowed them to better understand as dancers how their bodies work, and how to best match that movement to music to convey expression.

"I was surprised to find that when I really let myself go I had a lot more fun," Pottala said. "It's about letting yourself fully engage with the music, and not really worrying about what works. Finding something that works for you and then running with it.

"It's very important to just be open to not always being perfect, but knowing that you get to keep working at it to make it better. It's all about letting yourself go and being fully committed to the process."

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