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Cabaret gives freestyle experience

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Sophomore theater major Courtney Clark, Upland High School student Taylor Clark and sophomore theater major Ashley Weaver learn the basics of ballet and African step. To become more spatially aware of their bodies, Cabaret Student Productions held a modern dance workshop Tuesday night in the Jane Dibbell Cabaret Theatre. The workshop was led by third year CAPA student and theater major Ellie Nelson, a professional dancer and dance instructor./ photo by Tyler Deacy

Sophomore theater major Courtney Clark, Upland High School student Taylor Clark and sophomore theater major Ashley Weaver learn the basics of ballet and African step. To become more spatially aware of their bodies, Cabaret Student Productions held a modern dance workshop Tuesday night in the Jane Dibbell Cabaret Theatre. The workshop was led by third year CAPA student and theater major Ellie Nelson, a professional dancer and dance instructor. / photo by Tyler Deacy

Natasha Brennan
Arts Editor

Bare feet jumped from the hardwood floor and fell with a thump to the quick beat of Shakira’s “Waka Waka” playing in the background.

Sweat dripped from the six dancers as they ended their freestyles filled with energetic walks, turns and dance moves.

“Are you ready for a shower now?” CAPA student and theater major Ellie Nelson asked.

Since she was 3 years old, Nelson has been in love with ballet and dance.

She shared some of her years of experience to five people at a modern dance workshop held by Cabaret Student Productions, Tuesday night in the Jane Dibbell Cabaret Theatre.

Her lesson began with some ballet poses and terminology to the instrumentals of “Secrets” by One Republic and “A Thousand Years” by Christina Perry.

The dancers practiced ballet walks, using a toe-ball-heel movement instead of the natural heel-ball-toe walk.

They learned arabesques, a pose in which the body leans on one leg and the arms are held in a L-shape.

“Imagine there’s a pond, and you are gently making that first little ripple,” Nelson said, describing the positioning of the hand in an arabesque.

Nelson then explained how to do a split leap, a move where the dancer gains momentum by running and jumps into the air with one leg in front of them and one leg behind them.

“These ones are my favorite,” sophomore theater major and Cabaret Student Productions President Courtney Clark said.

Clark’s split leaps were so good that Nelson asked her to demonstrate the move for the group.

Once the dancers were comfortable with some of the turns, poses and terminology, they began learning a routine to “Waka Waka.”

Although Nelson had already choreographed it, she encouraged dancers to add their own flair and suggestions as they finalized the dance.

The routine was full of rhythmic movement and spins. It ended with a circle, giving each dancer the chance to freestyle in the center.

After a few run-throughs of the choreography and a final performance, the six dancers sat on the floor, stretching to the melodic sounds of bird whistles and Native American melodies.

As the lights dimmed, the dancers stretched to the soothing sound of Nelson’s voice. They laid on their backs, toes pointed and arms above their heads.

Nelson instructed them to imagine a warm, sparkling light of their favorite color enveloping their body. The light started on the toes and gradually moved to their hands, going up and over their fingers, shooting out into the universe.

Nelson stressed the importance of cooling down after dance sessions.

She told the group about ballet dancers who need hip replacements and cannot walk by their 20s due to a lack of proper training.

She gave the example of legendary ballet dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov, who has had many surgeries to fix ballet related injuries.

“I’m 42 years old, doing what I did at 18 because my dance teacher took care of my body, and now I will take care of yours,” she said.

After the cool down, Nelson led the dancers in a positivity circle.

The dancers took turns giving compliments to the person on their right, commenting one another on their new-found dancing abilities and courage to try something new.

“Don’t let anyone tell you you’re too old to dance, or too skinny, or too fat, or too young, or too anything,” Nelson said.

The session ended with three bows; one to the Creator, one to the instructor and one to the dancers.

Cabaret Student Productions decided to have a modern dance workshop because there is not a dance requirement for theater majors.

“Dance is such an important part of any performance because you get to know your body and the things you can do with it and how it moves, and that itself gives you more of a stage presence,” said sophomore theater major and Cabaret Student Productions Vice President Ashley Weaver.

Nelson, who hopes to create a dance program at ULV after graduation, was chosen to lead the dance workshop because of her extensive knowledge.

Nelson is part of the Dancing Dragons Troupe and is an instructor at Mikano Dance Studio in La Verne, a studio open to dancers of all abilities including those in wheelchair or with crutches.

“Ellie is very talented and knows a lot about dance. She brings a lot of energy, but she’s still calm. Having her to teach us was icing on the cake,” Weaver said.

Cabaret Student Productions’ next event is an open mic night at 8:30 p.m. April 4 in the Jane Dibbell Cabaret Theatre.

Natasha Brennan can be reached at natasha.brennan@laverne.edu.

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