Dance Ensemble Travels to China

It’s 5:05 on a Tuesday. Groups of girls leave the dance studio in leotards and spandex, ready to beat the crowd to the showers and get dressed for formal dinner. But not all. Four huddle around the fruit stand, chowing down on apples and pears. Another joins them, already tired and hungry from her tennis practice.

These girls won’t be going to formal today. They have rehearsal.

On October 15, Ms. Vickery, Mr. Haggard, Carrie Eastburn ’16, Grace Bingham ’15, Morgana Van Peebles ’16, Hayley Kong ’15 and Wesley Liang ’15 will be leaving for Beijing, China. They are headed to a university in Chongqing, for a music and dance festival that they have been rehearsing for since preseason this year. These dancers and Ms. Vickery have been rehearsing about 5 hours a week, in addition to living the rest of their busy Thacher lives.

“We have a 20 minute piece that goes from musical theatre (Steam Heat from the Pajama Game) to jazz with a little hip hop, and then the song Blower’s Daughter in which dancers have solos, and finishing with a contemporary ballet piece. The jazz and ballet segments are to original music written by Mr. Haggard,” reports Ms. Vickery, who has choreographed the entire piece.

The dancers sing in three of the four segments, adding another element of complexity to the piece, and requiring more rehearsal time.

The opportunity to travel to China and perform is certainly fantastic.

“I never imagined I would have a chance to travel anywhere out of state for dance, let alone across the pacific ocean to China,” says Hayley Kong, who has been to China before, but did not imagine she would be back so soon.

Morgana Van Peebles, one of the two sophomores, says that when she was asked to go on the trip she automatically said yes. The group will be gone for 7 days, and while they are there able to perform multiple times, at the opening ceremony of the festival and again the next day.

Obviously, putting this whole event together takes a lot of work. You would think that the dancers would be overwhelmed by the amount of work that they have, but all are maintaining a positive attitude.

“The extra rehearsals inconvenient can be at times, but going to China is worth it,” says Morgana. “There are so many more upsides than downsides.”

Still, everyone involved has had to make sacrifices. Morgana notes she was not able participate in the production of Our Town, because she would miss too many rehearsals.

Ms. Vickery, who as well as choreographing and teaching the four routines has continued to teach Fall Dance, in addition to her duties as a math teacher, advisor, and dorm faculty. It is understandable then that she made the decision that there would be no additional performance by the Dance Ensemble this fall.

We all know that the prospect of missing school at Thacher can be terrifying. Still, the dancers are not too worried.

“I know we will be working closely with our teachers to bring work with us so we won’t be too far behind,” says Hayley Kong.

Since Ms. Vickery and Mr. Haggard will be going to China as well, substitute teachers have been arranged for Mr. Haggard’s music classes and Chamber, and for Ms. Vickery’s math classes and Fall Dance.

It is obvious that Thacher is moving in an increasingly international direction. In the past few years students have traveled with the school to Cuba, China, Haiti, and this summer a group led by Mr. Jacobsen will be going to Cambodia. This spring break, the Chamber Singers will be heading to Puerto Rico to attend a choral festival. Every year Thacher send juniors to School Year Abroad programs. As a school containing students from all over the world, it is encouraging to see groups “pop” the Thacher bubble.

On Oct 1 after formal, the dancers had a 9 minute preview of their 20 minute show. They performed Steam Heat, the jazz/musical theatre number, and Yes In My Feet, a jazz/hip hop combo. This was also a test for the microphones, which the group will have to bring to China with them in a cumbersome 3×3 foot case. New costumes, red leotards and black shorts, props, and bowler hats that the dancers use during Steam Heat, were also tested out.

The performance drew raves reviews from students and faculty members.

As the five girls and two teachers prepare to leave, excitement runs high. We will all be wishing them well.