Members of Dance Production check out photos taken for the spring dance concert program during a Feb. 20 rehearsal in Room 130, the dance room. Though the April 9-11 event was canceled because of COVID-19-related school closure, dance instructor Leiana Volen has posted seven videos on the Dance Department’s Instagram and YouTube channels of various video footage of her students rehearsing their routines to showcase their hard work in preparation for the performance. Image posted with permission from Leiana Volen.
When dance teacher Leiana Volen first came up with the “Beyond” theme for the April 9-11 spring dance concert at the Performing Arts Center [PAC], she never thought she would have to take it that literally.
Because concerns over the spread of COVID-19 forced the Fullerton Joint Union High School District to close Sunny Hills and cancel all campus events, Volen decided to show her students’ dance routines beyond the PAC.
She took to the dance department’s social media channels to post two- to eight-minute videos — six as of April 27 — of her Dance 3 students and Dance Production [DP] team.
“While it will not be the same as viewing the performances live, viewers will be able to see the time and effort put in to create this concert and hopefully continue supporting and praising the incredible dancers that make up Sunny Hills High School Dance Department,” Volen said.
The first routine to be shared — choreographed by guest choreographer Andrew Rincon — was “Corners of the Earth,” which has garnered over a thousand views on Instagram (@shhsdance) and 530 views on YouTube since being posted on April 9.
“Due to COVID-19 and school closures, our Spring Concert, ‘Beyond,’ was sadly canceled,” according to the YouTube description. “In true artistic fashion, we know the show must go on! We have been working diligently to find unique ways to utilize technology and honor the student, faculty and guest choreography and dancing the best way possible.
“Thank you to Andrew Rincon for creating the first piece of our show, (way back in August!) and for being the launching point for where we took this concert. We hope you enjoy this video, and the videos to come over the next few weeks, as we take you ‘Beyond!’”
After a three-minute introduction from Volen, the nearly five-minute segment features a collage of footage from various rehearsals from the dance room to the PAC and in different lighting situations while the song of the same title from the electronic music duo ODESZA featuring RY X plays in the background.
Posted on April 14, “Beyond” was originally meant to be the concert’s opening number, showcasing DP performing many different dance styles through several quick costume changes.
The first Dance 3 routine to be shared was titled “Restraint,” in which viewers can see clips of the dancers in addition to some black and white images.
“Found,” choreographed by DP captain senior Aimee Park, is a two-minute routine to “Find Me” by Sigma and Birdy, featuring eight dancers.
This routine was followed on YouTube by “Snatched,” a DP routine from guest choreographer David Slayne in which members are clad in fitted white tank tops and gold pants.
“Fearfully and Wonderfully Made,” choreographed by juniors June Kim and Grace Park, features dancers in black-and-white costumes moving to a song with a violin playing in the background.
Choreographed by DP senior and Conservatory of Fine Arts president Alia Scroggins, “Limit Breaking” is a routine to “Ready or Not” by The November Man.
The most recent dance to be posted, “Triumph,” features students from the Period 4 Dance 1 class and was choreographed by student teacher Kristina Cox. The Instagram video has gained over 200 views since being posted on May 3.
“It was the ultimate challenge [to continue] to celebrate the [dancers’] work while also being able to give the audience something that is enjoyable,” Volen said in a YouTube video posted on April 9.
Choreographers, including students in DP and Dance 3, used footage from virtual meetings, practices and prior performances to edit videos showcasing their routines.
Several videos contain footage from rehearsals in the dance studio in Room 130, and they are typically intended to be used for reference and practice.
“I knew we needed to present our work somehow, [so] social media and YouTube seemed like the most logical way to make that happen,” Volen said. “Additionally, it seemed like a great opportunity for the choreographers to continue their creative process, staying true to our show theme, and pushing themselves beyond their limits by taking their choreography and presenting it on film.”
The canceled concert would have featured 36 dances from over 200 members of the Dance Department, including students from Dance 1-3, DP, the Deviation Hip-Hop Club and Dance Broduction, a group of senior boys performing for the first time.
“Our dances were going to look amazing on stage with lights and costumes,” DP co-captain senior Kyra Hughes said.
The show would have utilized a variety of technical aspects to showcase the “Beyond” theme, DP’s senior Jhanna Galan said.
“We [planned on using] props like light-up gloves and beach balls,” Galan said.
Now, the main technical aspects lie in graphics and footage involved in choreographers’ video editing.
“We focused our energy on exploring and pushing the boundaries and limits we place on ourselves individually and collectively,” Volen said. “There was a large futuristic, technological exploration and presence interwoven throughout the show.”
Though she had expected the extended school closure, the news of the canceled spring concert still saddened her.
“It’s so hard because I felt like I knew it was coming,” Volen told her second period Dance 3 class in a Zoom meeting on April 1. “Everything [kept] getting extended and pushed back farther, so while I didn’t want to believe that it was going to happen, I really wasn’t surprised.”
Hughes also found the news disappointing as she had been looking forward to her final spring concert as a senior.
“It’s really hard to comprehend because I’ve spent four years on this team working hard so that I can have my senior moment just like all the other girls from previous years,” she said. “I think what I’m going to miss the most is not being able to have a senior dance [followed by] the slideshow of all of our baby pictures.”
Viewers like freshman Ashley Suh have also been able to enjoy visual aspects of the dance through video even without the typical theater setting.
“I was really impressed by the editing in some of the videos,” Suh said. “The outer space graphics in [“Fearfully and Wonderfully Made”] looked really amazing with the dancers’ movements.”