Student-dancers prepare to take the stage for "Beyond Planet Earth"

Student-dancers prepare to take the stage for "Beyond Planet Earth"

Join us for this year's fall dance performance, Beyond Planet Earth.

Friday, Nov. 10, at 8 p.m. in KFAC

Saturday, Nov. 11, at 8 p.m. in KFAC

Get your tickets at the door!

$6 | Adults

$4 | Students and senior citizens

WRA faculty, staff and students can attend for free


Topics of astronomy don't usually partner with choreography — but that's not stopping this year's fall dance performance, "Beyond Planet Earth." On Nov. 10–11, WRA's student-dancers will take the stage to perform a very sci-fi ballet, intergalactic hip-hop and more!

It might be the first time such a dance performance has graced the stage of the Knight Fine Arts Center; at least, it's the first time in Emily Barth's memory, Director of Dance. Both she and fellow Fine & Performing Arts Department faculty member Katie Velbeck have choreographed an 18-piece show, all centered around the cosmos.

"Every piece has a specific theme about space," explains Barth. "We have aliens, gravity, antimatter, black holes, spider robots, stars. It helped us with the choreography, and it also gave the students an image in their head to help them connect to the piece."

Barth and Velbeck credit Lexi Shoemaker '18 as inspiration for the theme — who first pitched the idea during her freshman year. Now in her senior year, she's thrilled to be a part of the show. Shoemaker is also working on Compass project that uses dance to explain science to students.

So what does a dance performance centered on the cosmos look like?

Barth revealed one example as a teaser.

"I have two different pieces on aliens," she said. "One features my 'beautiful' aliens, and their dance is ballet. They're trying to captivate the audience with slow and beautiful movement. My other aliens, however, are hip hop aliens, and they're a bit goofy, more like what you see in movies — fun, energetic, playful — but not harmful!"

The ballet, hip hop, modern and jazz choreography will partner with special stage effects, designed by Technical Theater Director Tom West.

"We really just gave him full license to have fun with it," said Barth. "We'll definitely be using some fog, haze, special lighting — there might even be a piece with bubbles!"

There will even be student-musicians involved in the production, with Reserve's Symphonic Winds performing one of the music numbers, "Solaris." Dancing to live music will be a special challenge for the dancers, but both Barth and Velbeck relish the collaboration between the music and dance departments.

The other pieces will feature some music from various film and television scores, including music from "Gravity" and "Stranger Things." None of the music will have lyrics, which presented another interesting obstacle for the dancers.

"I think it can be a little harder when you don't have strong words like love or hate to tell you what the song is about," explained Velbeck. "I know for me, when I used to perform, that was a struggle for me as well. And some choreographers don't give a backstory so the music is completely open to your own interpretation. Which is nice sometimes too because you can feel a certain way about it and the person next to you can feel totally different."

"Despite how much we push for students to count and to be aware of the music itself, I know sometimes they go back to just listening to the lyrics instead of counting," added Barth. "It can be more challenging for quite a few of them, but it's good for them."

This year, the dance program is the largest it has ever been, with 63 students participating. And while the new daily schedule's longer class periods mean there's more time to practice in a session, it also means the classes aren't meeting as often. Because of this, it is important that students continue to practice on their own. To assist, Velbeck and Barth continue the use of Haiku to upload choreography videos so students can watch and run through the pieces with their instructor still there as a guide.

"They really work hard," said Barth. "With only so much time in the beginning to focus on technique and then all of a sudden to throw them into the rehearsal process is challenging, but every year, they do a really really great job with that, and we really luck out in terms of having these amazing students, so kudos to them, always."

Best of luck to the cast of "Beyond Planet Earth:" Izabel Acosta '20, Brooke Barsella '19, Jen Blossom '19, Francesco Borsellino '18, Micayla Brent '19, Abi Burner '18, Kali Chapas '18, Kathryn Chen '20, Julia Clarke '20, Mariah Davis '21, Sash Davis '18, Aline Dominguez '21, Mackenzie Farber '19, Matthew Filippelli '20, Tia Forsyth '18, Serena Gao '18, Rowena Ge '20, Kayle Gomez '18, Ghassan Hamzeh '18,Kailey Hau '19, Megan Hovan '20, Angela Jaballas '18, Flora Jiang '19, Ruicong Jiang '21, Dominic Jocas '21, Max Jewett '19, Sang Hun Kim '18, Abby King '18, Nadia Konovalchik '20, Tori Kramer '20, Ellie Kuhen '20, Alison Landry '18, Lauren Landry '20, Emily Lee '18, Amie Ly '20, Katie Ly '18, Alicia Ma '18, Coco Ma '20, Vivien Marmerstein '21, Aidan McKenna '21, Michael Mylott '21, Tien Nguyen '19, Henry Ong '20, Joshua Pethel '21, Matthew Randazzo '20, Rafa Rivera '19, Ashleigh Sherman '20, Alexis Shoemaker '18, Hannah Smith '20, VaLanDria Smith-Lash '19, Emily Smithberger '19, Jack Sovich '19, Hannah Stewart '18, Ana Villada '20, Constance Wang '18, Allison Weinzierl '20, Cassidy Williams '20, Laina Wilson '19, Kim Winson '20, Nini Wong '20, Zander Young '19 and Chloe Zampelli '18.