Students express creativity through annual choreography showcase

Eshna Das and Lee Monistere

After two sentimental dances, the audience was silent with anticipation for the next piece to begin. A deep voice interrupted the quiet, and jazz crept into the VST. As light hit the stage, the only thing visible to the audience was two dogs playing poker. 

The “dogs” were mask-clad sophomore dancers Talulah Monthy and Genna Larsen, performing sophomore Kai Gomez’s original choreography to “Ungodly Fruit” by Wax Tailor. Gomez’s piece was one of seven routines choreographed by students for the 2023 Student Choreography Showcase, which drew an enthusiastic crowd on Jan. 6.

STUCHO is an annual production where students create original, complex routines to a wide variety of songs and recruit dancers based on their commitment and skill to bring their pieces to life. The 2023 production showcased routines choreographed by seniors Ariana Lee, Aspen Collins, Josie Feldman and Sue Lyn Roberts; juniors Gabriella Saadia and Nadiya Naehr; sophomore Ryan Shen; and Gomez.

After attending a choreography workshop in September, students started preparing their pieces and met with lighting designers to dramatize their performances. They practiced periodically throughout the fall to ensure a flawless routine, rehearsing formations and routines for a total of 10 to 20 hours. 

“It was very time consuming and a little stressful,” said Collins, who helped arrange the senior piece “SKA.”

For months, lighting designers practiced manipulating the colors that would brighten the stage, dancers polished their routines and choreographers made adjustments to formations until the day of the showcase finally arrived. 

“All the choreographers were so nervous and excited to see their dances on stage,” Gomez said. 

The showcase began with a flood of blue light that enthralled the audience as six dancers in flowing, sky blue dresses entered the stage. Choreographed by Feldman, the dancers presented a contemporary and dramatic piece featuring music by artist Black Grapefruit. As the audience watched, dancers elegantly leapt across the stage, ending the performance by gracefully facing each other on the ground. 

As the lights darkened and the applause faded, trio Erin Bray, a freshman, Sophia Chon and Addy McKenny, both juniors, entered the stage to perform their routine to the song “Liability” by Lorde. Naehr, who choreographed the piece, integrated a bench into her routine for the dancers to pose on. The trio delivered a contemporary performance, using weight sharing and partner work to illustrate the perceived “liability” of asking for help.

“I really wanted to create the song’s titular idea in my choreography,” Naehr said. “Each dancer leans on each other for support but ultimately ends in a collapsed and separated position.”

The following dance quickly amused the audience as Monthy and Larsen, wearing German Shepherd and Boston Terrier masks respectively, strutted around a poker table. Choreographed by Gomez, the dance was inspired by the Dogs Playing Poker painting series by American artist Cassius Marcellus Coolidge. 

As the performance ended, Monthy and Larsen switched spots at the poker table. The music came to an end, and both dancers made gun figures with their hands to replicate a pose from Hamilton, with Monthy shooting up and Larsen shooting forward.

“I liked the idea of how one person folds in a card game when they have a bad hand, and the other wins because of that,” Gomez said. “The pose represented that perfectly.”

As the audience’s laughter settled, the song “Ribs” began. The performance spotlighted multiple dancers, including Collins and Naehr, and mesmerized the audience as dancers lifted Lee into the air. Soon after, the dancers screamed the chorus “I want it back” before continuing the routine. 

As the applause roared, the routine ended with Collins separated from the other dancers, expressing her independence and signifying that her time in the group was temporary and necessary to prepare her for “adulthood.”

“I knew since I was in eighth grade that I wanted to choreograph to ‘Ribs’ by Lorde for my senior year,” Roberts said. “I waited until then because I wanted my choreography and style to mature so that the dance could be my best work.”

The chain of contemporary and lyrical dances was disrupted by the energizing hip-hop dance “Get Together.” Influenced by professional choreographers Isidro Rafael, Christopher Martin and Keone Madrid, the dance featured casual and upbeat moods. As color and brass flushed the VST, the dance, choreographed by Shen, delighted the audience. 

“As a choreographer, it’s a different experience. You’re just as invested, but you have no control at the time of the performance,” Shen said. 

The mood shifted when the piano intro for the sixth dance “To Build A Home,” choreographed by Saadia, began. The emotional lyrical piece featured five dancers and a solo performed by junior Mia Basu. The blue lighting, designed by sophomore Jack Faulk, contrasted with the dancers’ silhouettes as the performers executed complicated leaps and turns. 

“I think it’s so special that we have a show where students are in charge of everything from lights, costumes, choreography and performing,” Basu said. “The dance department doesn’t always get a lot of attention, so for that many of our classmates to show up meant a lot to us.”

The showcase ended with the traditional senior dance, choreographed by Collins, Feldman, Lee and Roberts. The “SKA” routine started with the seniors sitting in chairs, striking several poses in black stilettos. 

As the routine continued, several dancers exited the stage, only to come back in shining golden-fringed skirts. The song suddenly switched to a positive and confident tone as the dancers energized the crowd with powerful movements and showstopping poses. 

“I wanted to challenge myself by choreographing sassy jazz and hip-hop since hip-hop is the area I have the least experience in,” Roberts said. 

As the curtain closed, the dancers jumped and waved to the audience. 

“It was a very fulfilling and satisfying process to see our dances come alive on stage,” Roberts said. “I’m happy I had the opportunity to be a part of it.”