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Dancers Choose Art Over Drugs

Chynna Lockett

Dancing is a discipline that takes years of learning and practice to master. The Choose Art Performance is showcasing a young dance group in an effort to keeps kids away from drugs. Some of the dancers have been performing for over a decade.

A group 11 of dancers moves silently on stage as the choreographer counts to the tempo. Their hair is tied tight behind their heads. Each is dressed in all black except for a pair of white gloves with outlines of eyes drawn on the palms.

Alie Martin is an 11th grader. She is one of 12 girls in a student dance company at the Academy of Dance Arts in Rapid City.

“I choreographed Ocular Curiosities which is a piece all about the human eye.”

Martin’s piece is part of the third annual Choose Art Performance…Addiction Reframed. Middle and high school students submitted visual art work during Red Ribbon Week. Students in the company chose images that inspired them and created original routines for the event.

“Mine is this bright orange background piece of art and has these big bold black eyes in it. So I was like that’s really cool looking.”

She put together a dance that represented what the image made her feel.

“I took my piece and I decided that I wanted it to be more aggressive and more direct with the movement. And I really wanted to use that type of movement to convey kind of the boldness and the real punch that the piece of art had.”

The performance is collaboration between the Academy of Dance Arts and the nonprofit, Lifeways. Sara Olivier directs the student company at the Academy.

She says the project was created to show students that expressing themselves through art is an alternative to substance abuse and risky behavior.

“We want young people to know that we respect them, we applauded them, we celebrate them for their work and for their achievements as young artists.”

She says she believes art education is the anti-drug in schools. The project is funded by grants and local donors. Olivier says proceeds go to Lifeways to help them support young people in need.

“I have so much trust in these students. They’re just really tremendous people. And really, this is their show. And I just have complete faith that they are going to carry the day. I just feel so, so blessed to get to work with these amazing young people.”

The show also features a variety of musicians and poets from Rapid City area high schools.

Two students appear on stage. One is dressed as Ash Ketchum from the Pokémon cartoon series. She leaps and spins as Carmen Richardson performs the show’s theme song on her violin. Richarson says the two put the performance together after hearing an adaptation by…

“Lindsey Stirling. She’s a popular violinist who does a lot of pop songs and plays with popular artists.”

Richardson is in 10th grade and says she’s been playing the violin and dancing for nearly 13 years. She says they chose this routine…

“Just for fun, yeah.”

She says the company has been practicing at least once a week since October.

“A lot and a lot of rehearsals and it’s very exciting. This year is very, very different than past years, I feel like. We’re more prepared and we all have more experience and it’s going to be really cool.”

Richardson is also a part of several group performances.

Eleven students wearing black leotards and tights with different colors skirts appear. They pair off to twirl around stage, each couple moving differently. Maia Zoller is in 12th grade.

“I choreographed the piece titled Idiosyncrasy of Life. And it was inspired by this beautiful artwork that had a city scape in it.”

She says she used minuet movements in this piece.

Credit Chynna Lockett

“All of the movement was very confined to their own person. There wasn’t a lot of really expressive movement. As a viewer, as an audience member, you really had to pick up on the little things in it and there was just much going on all of the time just like life in a city, you know.

Five students dressed as different characters from Alice in Wonderland tap their way onto stage. Some are wearing a tall hat, a dress scattered with playing cards, antennas, whiskers or animal ears.

Matty Baldwin is in 12th grade. She is the White Rabbit.

“The seniors all knew that we wanted to do a piece together and we found this wonderful painting of the Mad Hatter and we based our whole piece off that. And we wanted to do a tap number.”

The students worked together to choreograph this performance.

She says they watched the movie for character research then paired tap movements with the perfect song.

“You feel really powerful. You like walk out and you’re like ‘I’m making noise’ and you’re not supposed to make noise when you dance. So like, like the first step I do, I just I feel like I capture the audience’s attention right away.”

Baldwin says she is also performing her first solo dance this year.