WRA's Dance Program presents filmed series

WRA's Dance Program presents filmed series

Congratulations to our choreographers, Director of Dance Katie Velbeck and Assistant Director of Dance Alexandria Anzaldi, and the talented cast of Across the Divide, Act II. Watch the performance.


In the first few minutes of Across the Divide, Act II, you might find yourself wondering why we haven't always premiered our dance performances this way. There's something lovely about seeing Western Reserve Academy's acreage and facilities serve as center stage. It's like each piece transformed the grounds, the halls, the brick paths, and turned our historic home into something fresh and exciting.

Across the Divide, Act II is an extension of our 2020 fall showcase. It is the final project of the Dance and Honors Dance students in module two. This showcase continues to explore the emotions and experiences brought on by this global pandemic. It's an open conversation about these strange and sometimes trying times, and in this way, it's almost impossible not to connect to the performance. It delves into themes of uncertainty and isolation, processing and frustration, the craving for connection, the loss of identity, the joy of compassion.

For Anzaldi and Velbeck, who not only served as choreographers, but as film directors and camera operators, there was abundant opportunity for creativity. Little moments stand out, such as in the first piece, Connection, when a student-dancer bends down to grab a pile of autumn leaves and tosses them playfully at their partner. It's sweet and it's fun, but moreover it shows how there was freedom to use the natural world and bring it into the performance.

The use of tiny flashlights in the piece The Science of Fear creates an exquisite and almost lonely atmosphere, like the dancers are lost and finding their way in the dark, their flashlights like headlights to light the way. Dancers performed on the lawn, on the fire escape of North Hall, in the snow, in the sunshine, and by the end of the performance, there's no question that these performers worked so hard and committed to creating a dazzling, moving and impressive production.

What makes it all the more impressive is knowing that the performers and choreographers only had about three weeks to choreograph, refine, rehearse and shoot the entire show. Anzaldi and Velbeck had no prior filming and editing experience, but you would not guess this. Their camera work elevates the performance, and includes inverted camera angles to add more dimension, close ups to bring the viewer into the performance, and more.

With this time constraint, Velbeck and Anzaldi had to make multiple adjustments and accommodations, such as shooting for 15-minute intervals in that space of time between the end of classes and the start of athletic practices. Much of the filming could be done during class time, but rehearsal and filming did expand outside this time frame. But the entirety of the cast was on board with this project, devoted to creating a polished piece and excited to have a personal record of their hard work.

"We're definitely always proud of our dancers, but I will say that given the time constraints and the extra effort, the extra hours, we are so proud of our cast," said Velbeck. "The video would not be as successful as it was had they not given it their all. From the very beginning, when we explained what [Ali and I] wanted to do and showed them some examples on YouTube, they were just so excited."

"I also feel that I really got to know the kids through the process," added Anzaldi, who joined Western Reserve Academy's Fine & Performing Arts Department and Student Life Office this August. "Particularly through the piece I choreographed called Connection. I dedicated this to my classmate Johnny Saucier '13, who passed away on October 27, 2020. I shared this with the kids, about what this piece means to me. I was just so proud of the way they handled these deeper concepts with maturity. They're really thoughtful kids, and at the end of the day, I do think they committed and shared something of themselves in their performance, which I really appreciate."

The entire ensemble put on a fantastic performance of which they should be very proud. If there is anything lost in having this filmed, perhaps it is the missing applause they would have received in a live performance. Rest assured, this is deserving of a standing ovation. Bravo, Pioneers!