Create what you know. It’s advice often given to artists.
What many of the members of Sheldon High School’s Universal Rhythm Dance Company know is the armed forces.
The company’s two faculty advisors, Becky Hobgood and Debi Roberts, each have sons deployed overseas—one in Afghanistan and one in East Asia. The familiarity also extends to the company’s teenage dancers.
“Most of these kids have some kind of really close connection to the military,” said Hobgood.
That connection inspired a student-choreographed tribute to servicemembers that is the highlight of the company’s 2012 show.
Set to a melange of pop music (including possibly the best use ever of P. Diddy’s “Coming Home”) the piece begins with a solemn rendition of “Taps” played live, and ends with an ensemble of dancers in military and civilian costumes posed before an American flag. In between, dancers trace the arc of a soldier’s journey overseas, from deployment to combat to homecoming.
It’s a patriotic dance, but it’s not all rah-rah: The most moving moments deal with the trauma that lingers even after the battlefield has been left behind. That point is reinforced in the show’s program, which reads, For many the war does not end…The greatest casualty is being forgotten.
Students are taking up a collection at the show for the Wounded Warrior Project, which helps injured veterans with the transition to civilian life, and special military guests will appear at each performance.
The military piece is one of more than a dozen in Universal Rhythm’s 14th Annual Main Stage Show—some crafted by students, others by local choreographers including Eric Torneros and Adam Peterson.
Other high points of the show include Peterson’s animated “The Ground Floor,” in which duets and groups of khaki-clad male dancers cartwheel and fouetté gracefully across the stage, and the raucous “Beautiful People” staged by Sheldon alum Lauryn Kelly Robinson.
The dancers impress with their versatility, with many of the same performers stretching and swaying in a slow, gospel-tinged number, then popping and locking their way through “Party Like a Rockstar” seemingly moments later.
It’s a high school show, so the performers’ skills are sometimes uneven. But where else but a high school show would you get surprises like a goodbye dance for the senior class set to the theme song from “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air”?
And for those of you who don’t usually attend dance performances, relax: The helpful student emcees break down the meaning of each piece beforehand.
Universal Rhythm’s 14th Annual Main Stage Production opened Thursday and continues Friday and Saturday at 7:00 p.m. at the Sheldon High School Performing Arts Center. Tickets are $10 at the door.