As Dalton School dance department head Randi Sloan introduced the opening number, it was clear this would not be the average high school performance. “Here Here,” a collaboration between Sloan and Dalton alumnus Adam Weinert (2003) who now dances with Shen Wei Dance Arts, was based on the principles of chance operations created by Merce Cunningham and John Cage. Live musicians (some students, some professionals) were given music on the spot by a composer and the dancers responded to the sonic cues. Neither the musicians or the dancers knew where the dance would take them. Even the video projections in the background changed in response to the random cues. The result was a complex work that didn’t seem spur-of-the-moment at all.
The rest of the show was choreographed solely by students of the private Manhattan high school who were inspired by similar concepts. Several pieces were based on scientific themes that incorporated random or chance occurrences. “Supernova,” choreographed by Amadi Washington, was based on the chance formation of a star. Students wore lights on their wrists, creating unique patterns and shadows as they danced. And “The Butterfly Effect,” choreographed by Charlotte Ray Rosenberg, was based on chaos theory: One brightly colored butterfly brought about everything that happened throughout. Other pieces had performers dance through a huge pile of confetti, and imitate dust motes moving under overhead lights that turned on and off unpredictably. The effects, lighting, computer animation and sets—all designed by students—were every bit as polished as many professional shows.
The evening was particularly impressive considering that composition class isn’t usually introduced until college. These high school dancers had it down. They choreographed, incorporated a complex theme, and showed some impressive dancing. (The final number, “Ignis,” was particularly well-danced.) Congratulations to Sloan and the Dalton students on a terrific show.