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Under the Canopy: A Flock of Creativity

Dancers from Connexus Dance Collective, Colorado Youth Ballet, and The National Honor Society for Dance Arts chapter of Colorado Ballet Society will be performing in Under the Canopy at Doherty High School on Sunday, March 15, at 5:00 pm, bringing the best in classical repertoire and contemporary dance to the Front Range region. Act 1, 20/20 Vision, is completely student-led and features the choreography of NHSDA members. Act 2, Spotlight, features youth ballet dancers performing variations from some of the most well-known ballets, including Swan Lake, Coppelia, Paquita, Harlequinade, and La Esmeralda. Act 3, Connexus Collections, premieres two new contemporary dance works, Under the Canopy and Creatures of Habit.

“This is the first time NHSDA’s student-led performance will be part of the Colorado Youth Ballet and Connexus’s March production,” explains Colorado Ballet Society and Colorado Youth Ballet founder and director, Patricia Hoffman. “We are elated to showcase both classical variations and original and powerful new choreography with our Colorado Springs audience.”

“We have learned so much over the last 4 years,” says CBS instructor and Connexus manager, Laci Landry. “We created junior and senior sections in the company to help both the advanced and intermediate dancers exponentially grow in their performance and modern technique. Every year, the dancers continue to amaze me and they are capable of more challenging works. We had the honor of collaborating with the Chamber Orchestra last winter to re-imagine Appalachian Spring and Menotti’s The Unicorn, the Gorgon, and the Manticore where the dancers performed and danced at a professional level.”

“I enjoy the variety of pieces I have done with Connexus over the past four seasons,” shares sixteen-year-old student, Alea Yun Cai Brown, who is performing the Great Egret role in the title piece, Prayer variation from Coppelia, and in her own choreography, “Growing Joy.” “I think it is really special that we have so many performing opportunities. I have been able to grow as an artist in each one of these performances, and I always love working with our manager, Ms. Laci!”

“After the tremendous growth I saw last season in the students from working on a longer contemporary ballet, I wanted to continue with that trajectory,” says Landry. “My goal has been to give the students very unique, yet fun, characters to explore this year and the idea of birds came to mind. After researching many kinds of birds and different areas of the world, the rainforest stood out and that lead us to create Under the Canopy.”

From dawn to dusk, life is teeming in the amazon rainforest. From musical nightingales to majestic egrets, many unique and vibrant birds live under this luscious canopy. Staying alert, hunting for food, tidying the nest, and soaring through the sky creates a busy day for these quirky and beautiful creatures. We explore a day in their colorful life through movement.

“The work is beautiful, colorful, and a little silly,” explains Landry.

“I love the personality of the Egret,” shares Brown. “It is always calm and collected, even when chaos is surrounding it. I think it is really fun to have the opposite emotion than the other birds on the stage.”

“I am most excited to perform these pieces because I have never really thought about what dancing like birds would look like. We have all put a lot of effort into this show and becoming our different birds, and I am excited to show it off,” says seventeen-year-old senior, Jesse Higley, who is performing in the Macaw role. “I love working in big groups and seeing how the different patterns and movements come together. I also really enjoy my Macaw duet because I get to showcase my capabilities as a partner/male dancer.” Jesse plans to attend Ann Lacy School of American Dance and Entertainment at Oklahoma City University in the fall. He was awarded an $11,000 talent-based scholarship for his freshman year and a $2,500 annual academic scholarship.

In addition to the Connexus Collections, there will be pieces choreographed by CBS dancers in NHSDA’s 20/20 Vision. “As we enter into this new decade, our vision for NHSDA has provided new opportunities to grow, not only as dancers, but also as a part of our community. Just as we all strive to see with 20/20 vision, reflection on our past is also necessary. Over the past three years of workshops, performances, and events we have grown as a society financially to clearly see the difference that our dancing and fundraising has created, as well as to confidently see where we are going in the future. Dance gives us 20/20 vision to reflect on the past and grow confidently in the future.”

“I think that NHSDA’s purpose of helping our community adds to the importance of this performance. We have had the wonderful opportunity to scholarship young students to come dance here at Colorado Ballet Society; we also are able to help support the wonderful foster care organization, Hope and Home,” explains Brown, president of NHSDA. “I think it is really special that NHSDA members are able to see that their hard work and effort throughout the year has helped support our community.”

Among the many highlights in the 20/20 Vision portion of the concert, is one of Brown’s pieces titled "Growing Joy” about the transition of a young dancer growing up and finding her own joy in dance. “I have loved the role of choreographer!” proclaims Brown. “I have enjoyed working with two of the younger students who perform in the piece with me, and watching them grow throughout this process. It has given me a new perspective on how pieces are created. Watching my piece develop has been so inspiring. I love seeing the dancers bring my choreography to life and hope to choreograph more in the future!”

Also performing as a dancer and as a choreographer in the production is 18-year-old senior, Josie Hawkins, who will appear in Swan Lake’s Black Swan Variation; Creatures of Habit, a duet with CBS instructor Elisa Olson; and her own choreography “Revival.” “I appreciate how different each piece is from one another other,” shares Hawkins. “From a well-known classical piece to abstract contemporary to meaningful worship pieces, they are all unique.” After graduation, Josie will be joining Ballet Magnificats! Events Company, the highest Trainee Level at America's Premier Christian Ballet Company.

“I have choreographed two dances in this show,” continues Hawkins. “The first one, "Revival" was composed by my best friend, Emmie Hintze. She wrote it in a very chaotic time in her life and throughout that trial, she found a tremendous amount of peace through Jesus Christ and I wanted to portray that through dance. The second piece is to the song "Lean Back" by Davy Flowers. Given the vision theme of NHSDA’s portion of the show, a few fellow dancers and I wanted to do a worship piece about having that vision through Jesus Christ. We came up with this song and the concept of someone who knows the word but is not truly pursuing a relationship with God. Then, through compassion from Jesus, she turns away from her old life and returns home to the loving arms of the father.”

“There are not many opportunities in Colorado Springs for young artists to showcase their work in performance and/or choreography and it’s so important to support these young local dancers,” claims Landry.

“It is important for students to have an opportunity to choreograph because it gives them experience for future endeavors,” says Higley. “They get a chance to collaborate with other dancers, bounce around ideas, work with different people who have different strengths, and learn how to showcase each dancer’s Individuality and abilities.”

“I have never choreographed before so I have definitely learned a lot, such as how to properly count music, teach choreography, think of new creative ideas, and just overall stepping up and making decisions,” shares Hawkins. “When you give students that opportunity, you are also giving them an insight into what teachers do every day, resulting in more of an appreciation for the amount of work teachers pour into their students.”

“I am so proud to not only debut as a choreographer but to show how hard everyone has been working to have an exceptional show,” says Hawkins. “I think there is something for everyone and it is going to be just pure entertainment.”

“We’ve been working hard on this show since October and cannot wait to perform!” exclaims Higley.

“Under the Canopy will be an incredible performance! Each piece will be unique and special in its own way. I hope that every audience member will be inspired when they leave!” shares Brown.

“It’s rare to find a student performance with such high technical skill in various styles of dance. Those three things combined make this is a must-see,” declares Landry.

Tickets for Under the Canopy are available HERE


Who: Connexus Dance Collective, Colorado Youth Ballet, & National Honor Society for Dance Arts of Colorado Ballet Society

What: Under the Canopy - Join us in seeing a vibrant collaboration performance of new works and classical variations, as well as a student-lead performance from our National Honor Society for Dance Arts Secondary Chapter inductees and candidates.

When: 5:00 pm Sunday, March 15, 2020

Where: Doherty High School | 4515 Barnes Rd Colorado Springs, CO 80917

Tickets: $20 are available HERE

Figure 1: Connexus Dance Collective in Under the Canopy | PC: Kayla Coburn

Figure 2: Connexus Dance Collective 2019-2020 Company Photo| PC: Ted Mehl of A Better Image Photography

Figure 3: Alea Yun Cai Brown rehearsing the Egret | PC: Kayla Coburn

Figure 4: Jesse Higley and Anna Ackerman rehearsing Macaws | PC: Kayla Coburn

Figure 5: National Honor Society for Dance Arts 2019-2020 Photo | PC: Ted Mehl of A Better Image Photography

Figure 6: Josie Hawkins as Odette| PC: Ted Mehl of A Better Image Photography

Figure 7: Elise Valant, Kiana Lujan, Versais Marken, and Lauryn Mechelse rehearsing Parakeets | PC: Kayla Coburn

Figure 8: Jesse Higley |PC: Kayla Coburn

Figure 9: Ellie Chandanais |PC: Kayla Coburn

Figure 10: Trinity Isidore, Jesse Higley, and Anna Ackerman rehearsing |PC: Kayla Coburn

Figure 11: Flamingos rehearsing |PC: Kayla Coburn

Figure 12: Trinity Isidore rehearsing the Nightingale: |PC: Kayla Coburn

Figure 13: Alea Yun Cai Brown rehearsing the Egret |PC: Kayla Coburn

Figure 14: Emma Michaux and Josie Hawkins |PC: Ted Mehl of A Better Image Photography

Figure 15: Dan Brown| PC: Kayla Coburn

Figure 16: Jesse Higley| PC: Kayla Coburn

Figure 17: Trinity Isidore rehearsing the Nightingale: |PC: Kayla Coburn

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