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While the annual dance concert, staged last weekend at Mount Desert Island High School, lacked the big name guest performers that have thrilled audiences in the past, the local dance programs have gotten so good no one would notice.
Mr. Grieco started the evening showing two terrific videos, the first an excerpt from the high school show choir’s award-winning “Lion King” performance, showing the “Stampede” sequence.
Mr. Grieco explained how he and fellow choreographer Carl Ferm had attempted to tell a story with the movement in this sequence and how the students themselves, each representing restless, spooked animals, had come up with their own ideas of how to express fear and anxiety.
It was wonderful to see this again. The second clip was of pop lock-style dancer Li’l Buck, dancing to Yo-Yo Ma’s rendition of Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake.” Oh my. Not only does this young dancer from Los Angeles appear not to have a bone in his body, his interpretation of the music was incredibly graceful and poignant.
Then the live show began with excellent performances in tap, modern, jazz, gymnastic ribbon dancing and a bit of ballroom.
Tami Willis’ tappers (some may know her from her Two Shoes performances), were just wonderful as they danced to “Zoot Suit Riot” with great enthusiasm and precision.
High school junior Maureen Grubb performed a lovely solo dance she choreographed the tune “You Too,” demonstrating some fine technique in both her movement and the places she chose stillness.
I was struck by how well all the dancers used the entire stage in their routines.
Nora Hubbell was another case in point, with a delightful ribbon dance that had her streamer swirling about the stage like a small cyclone as she danced her own gymnastic-style piece.
And after years of watching MDIHS student Bradley Thurston experiment with movement on this stage, it is wonderful to report that he has become a true dancer. He was eye-catching in the “Stampede” video clip. In an evocative solo, he danced to music by Bjork, demonstrating considerable technique and using the entire stage to great effect. Bradley also demonstrated his choreographic chops in a group piece danced to the Fleet Foxes’ “White Winter Hymnal,” featuring many of the dancers from the “Lion King” and that same animal grace.
Also wonderfully evocative was Caroline Homer and Ben Stevens’ modern dance duet in which a boy and a girl are filled with yearning and yet can’t seem to see one another. In the final moment when the boy finally looks longingly at the girl but her head is turned away, it seemed the entire audience sighed.
The attractive troupe of Libitzki jazz dancers did a fun dance to a Rihanna tune that would have made a great dance aerobics tape.
Also great fun was a tap and ballroom duet performed by Ailish Fahey and Logan MacDonald, to Frank Sinatra’s “Pick Yourself Up.” This was romantic, stylish, funny and just plain swell, as Old Blue Eyes himself might have said.
But the most enchanting moments of the evening were provided by a little troupe of tots called “The Sunshine Dancers,” from a new dance studio started just six months ago by Mary Lyman. The young hoofers absolutely delivered the sunshine in two darling dances, “Ta Dah!” and “Sparkle.”
In his opening remarks, Mr. Grieco talked about telling a story with dance, and already these little dancers – Piper Charron, Ayano and Mai Ishimura, Tejal Nair and Lucy Wray, who looked to be 5 to 8 years old – demonstrated they knew exactly how to do that. In dances that looked almost like playground activities – running, jumping, skipping, hugging and playing make believe, they told a sweet story about kids at play that was also unquestionably a dance with amazingly intricate choreographic sequences they seemed to remember flawlessly.
After the terrific Sinatra-inspired tap duet, the audience had to check their programs to know the show was over and it was time to go. It would have been nice for the audience to have one last chance to thank Don Grieco and the dancers with a well deserved, final round of thunderous applause.