Defining Their ‘Essence’ on 10 Toes

By Karin Klein, Special to the Independent


Samples from this year’s show include works entitled “Bollywood” and “Oregon.”

In a humorous hip-hop performance, dancers depict the hallucinations of patients in an old-time asylum. Through their imaginations, the patients move from the pallid, stationary environment of their confinement into worlds of color, comedy and rapid-fire movement.

The dance was choreographed by urban dance professional Darrien Henning, who has choreographed pop-music tours and taught advanced hip-hop to Britney Spears. It’s one of more than a dozen dance pieces ranging from ballet to jazz in the lineup of “Essence,” the fall dance performance at Laguna Beach High School. The three-night run began Thursday evening and continues Friday and Saturday evenings at 7:30 p.m. at the Artists’ Theatre.

Many of the dances were choreographed by professionals; one, by Michael Perez, interprets the  workaday world of white-collar employees through modern dance. The performers, dressed in frumpy business attire, dance out an increasingly energetic interpretation of frenetic businesspeople frantically rushing through their work day and, both symbolically and literally, removing any obstacles in their path—especially other people.

But two of the pieces were choreographed by LBHS students and both, coincidentally, involve themes of girls finding their way to independence and empowerment. The piece by Karina Parker uses dance to interpret the struggles of four girls trying to express themselves in an environment that presses them to conform. Karina, who has starred in many of the high school’s dramatic productions as well as performing in the dance program, designed individual choreography for each girl in the dance to reflect the hard-won individuality each one manages to attain.

Senior Natalee Palmer put into dance her experience watching a friend who repeatedly allowed herself to be poorly treated by a boyfriend until she broke free. In the dance, four girls evolve from pained acceptance of their mistreatment—symbolized by the holes in their shirts—to independent spirits who show their new strength through the power of their dance moves.

Another dance, choreographed by professional Erika Fernandez, is about fun rather than a serious message; it’s a flirty fusion, complete with coin skirts, of traditional Indian dance and jazz.

Students audition for the dance performance the first week of school and rehearse throughout the semester.

Tickets for the dance show are $15 for adults and $8 for students and senior citizens. Reserved seating in the front and center section of the Artist’s Theater is $20. The box office opens at 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday.


Local Karin Klein is the mother of a dance student.

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