The Phipps Dance Company, a non-competitive performing dance troupe, is celebrating its 14th season with showcase performances April 6-14 on Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. at The Phipps Center for the Arts.
The 2018-19 company, led by director Christina Leines and associate director Stephanie Campbell, is comprised of 14 auditioned dancers who range in age from 14 to 18 years old. The performances will feature a variety of styles, including musical theater, lyrical, hip-hop, jazz, contemporary and classical ballet.
This season's guest choreographers are Kyra Scanlan, Erin Sheppard and Barb Suick. Michelle Ludwig and Elaina Sutula, from Ballet Co Laboratory, have restaged a piece from the ballet "Coppelia," based off the original choreography by the Bolshoi Ballet in 2011.
This is Leines' fifth year directing the company, and she said she couldn't be more pleased.
"The dancers have had a wonderful time learning from and working with our fantastically talented choreographers to [perform] a variety of dance styles covering a vast array of moods and emotions. Each year, I have the privilege of watching this dedicated group of young dancers improve their technique through hard work and dedication, but the thing that makes me the most proud is how they have grown as artists and storytellers," Leines said.
With her hip-hop piece, Sheppard said she wanted to look at gender expectations.
"The Swamp Dogg track is a satirical song about a man's unrealistic expectations of a woman, complaining that all he does is work hard for her and she doesn't show any appreciation because she's not interested in watching TV with him when he comes home. He places a lot of unreasonable expectations about her and removes himself of having any responsibility in the relationship because 'a man shouldn't have to deal with that,'" Sheppard said.
"As the second track starts, we brush off that sad sack persona and step into the role of a woman who is setting her own expectations. She's saying, 'If you want to take care of me, then take care of me. Figure out who I am and meet me where I'm at.' I love that the second song is a mash up featuring two incredible artists, Nina Simone and Lauryn Hill, women who had to work twice as hard to be taken seriously in a male-dominated industry. The choreography for the Swamp Dogg song is very much tongue in cheek and I hope there are moments that surprise you and tickle you. I hope for the second song you experience moments of awe watching these young dancers find their own stage presence, identity and power within the movement. Their skill, humor, and individuality bring these ideas to life. It's been a joy to rehearse with them and get to know them through the creative process," she continued.
Suick said her lyrical piece is an exploration of the different parts of people that come to the surface at different times.
"We are highlighting a sad, introspective quality, anger and compassion. These entities are at times in conflict with each other and at times complement and work together with each other to create harmony. The dancers explored their own 'parts' and how those feelings translated into movement and gestures. The emotional maturity of these seven dancers and their ability to be vulnerable in expressing themselves is impressive. I have been moved by them and have grown personally through this process. I think the audience will be able to relate to both the struggles and joy that can result from our different inner qualities," Suick said.
Ludwig said the dancers are eager artists who take on new challenges.
"We chose this particular ballet section for its important corps de ballet work and for all of the complex spacing patterns. The goal is to help push the students to all work together for unison, clarity, and to be more aware of themselves in relation to others. The coordination of the arms and heads for this piece was another challenge for the girls. We wanted to push the students to find the breath and life in classical ballet and chose this particular choreography for how much it moves. Classical ballet doesn't have to be stiff and we wanted all the students to learn that lesson," Ludwig said.
The Phipps Junior Dance Company, led by director Mackenzie Heisler and associate director Greta Lewis, will also perform a lyrical and tap piece.
Tickets are $14 for adults and $12 for students of any age. Reservations may be made by contacting The Phipps ticket office at 715-386-8409 or online at ThePhipps.org.