Western Reserve Academy is thrilled to present its Spring Dance Performance, “COLORS,” inside our Knight Fine Arts Center.

Friday, May 17, at 7:30 p.m.

Saturday, May 18, at 7:30 p.m.

Admission is free with open seating. If you can’t make it in person, we invite you to watch our livestream of the performance.

+++

Russian painter and art theorist Wassily Kandinsky once said, “Color is a power which directly influences the soul.” We know that color, in all of its hues, inspires, influences, informs, evokes. Our earliest and simplest associations tell us that red is fury, blue is sorrow, yellow is elation, supported by our surroundings within the natural world — red is fire, blue is a rain cloud, yellow is the beaming sun in the corner of a fingerpainting. 

Colors are tied to politics, national flags, gender identity, fashion trends, athletic teams, soda cans and superheroes. As a theme for our Spring Dance Performance, “COLORS” is creative free-for-all, with abundant opportunity for metaphor and meaning, as well as fun and imagination.

“Each spring, we try to pick a theme that’s more open-ended since our student-choreographers are also coming up with pieces,” said Assistant Director of Dance and Fine & Performing Arts Department faculty member Ali Anzaldi. “We try not to limit them too much! This felt like a broad theme that could generate a lot of different works.”

There are 31 pieces in their program, featuring six student-choreographed performances, with a diversity of styles and interpretations of the prompt. Songs such as “Maroon” by Taylor Swift, “Orange-Colored Sky” by Natalie Cole, “Pink and White” by Frank Ocean and “Passionfruit” by Drake directly name the colors explored — and it’s astonishing to realize just how many songs and artists have colors in their titles!

“I think the most emotional piece I have in the show isn’t actually obviously related to a color,” said Velbeck. “It’s more about the feeling it gives you. It’s called ‘Amen’ by Amber Run, so I suppose if you wanted to directly tie it to color — you could, with their name, but I actually have everyone in white. The song is about losing someone, and our soloist is the one exploring grief, while the other dancers are there to help her through her loss, to support her. There’s jumps, lifts, falls — it might be one of the hardest technical pieces I’ve done in my nine years.”

Her class wondered about her choice in color — isn’t black traditionally the color meant to explore grief?

“I think it works," said Velbeck. “It makes me think of a blank slate.”

In many nations, white is the color of mourning, associated with rebirth and the cleansing of the soul. Scientifically, when no light is reflected, you see black and when nearly all light is reflected, you see white. White can speak to erasure, absence, emptiness, while simultaneously inspiring hope, ascension, looking upward.

“There’s a lot of emotion in this piece, and it’s the one to close the first half of the show,” said Velbeck. “We’ll let the audience sit with it.”

Songs such as “Colorblind” by Counting Crows opened a door to think about the absence of color, and Anzaldi pulled inspiration from Lois Lowry’s The Giver, beginning in a colorless world and introducing color as sparks of enlightenment and empowerment. On the stage will be large boxes that start illuminated in white, then light up with vivid hues at key moments of the piece.

Props, costumes and lighting all play a role, from the playful (you can’t play “The Pink Panther Theme” without pink cat ears and a tale!) to the practical (chairs and tables to transform the stage into a cafe).

The program features our typical array of dance styles, including hip hop, jazz, modern, contemporary and ballet, as well as some unique surprises to the mix. The country ballad “Blue” by LeAnn Rimes features a ballet that subverts expectations, incorporating line dancing and even a fight scene into the mix.

“The funny thing is that line dancing does feature a lot of traditional ballet moves — you have your pas de bourrees, your temp du fleches — that’s all classical!” explained Anzaldi, performing the moves in her office that — admittedly — when partnered with the music, did make the elegant moves look very yeehaw.

Our student-choreographers have been hard at work preparing for the performance weekend. At the time of this article’s interview, four soloists were in the dance studio, using their Common Academic Time period for extra rehearsal. For the exiting seniors, this performance will be their last time on the Knight Fine Arts Center stage and will be a bittersweet finale for their Reserve theater career. Brother and sister duo Nadia ’26 and Kian Kischke ’24 are performing a duet together to a song fittingly titled “Brother,” dancing together in mournful blue tones as the siblings, and close friends, prepare to part ways as he heads to Hobart and William Smith Colleges this fall.

“I’m going to sob,” said Velbeck. “It’s such a tug on the heartstrings.”

Velbeck and Anzaldi admitted that this will be a teary night for them both as they prepare to say goodbye to their graduating seniors, a strong group of dancers that have been an exceptional part of their studio — both in terms of talent and positive temperament.

“This is my first four-year class that I’m seeing graduate!” said Anzaldi. “I just can’t even imagine the school without them. They’ve had such an interesting journey — they were our COVID class. They’re such an amazing group of kids. Saying goodbye to them is going to be so hard.”

We are a few days away from enjoying this vibrant performance — and we cannot wait to applaud all involved. Break a leg, Pioneers!