Center of Everything
Teenagers recline on their backs, warming up for an evening of dance practice. They pull their right leg to their chest, leg outstretched, and then their left, right again, then left.
Choreographer Marty Lewis lies at the front of the spongy black-floored studio, instructing the warm-up—"Bend, two, three, four … stretch … twist.”
For simply limbering up, the 12 kids on the ground are in amazing unison as they move from leg stretches into spinal twists. Tonight, they are rehearsing for the upcoming dance performance Center of Everything, which will feature 15 dance numbers over an hour and 45 minutes. There will be modern dance, hip-hop, ballet and jazz.
The 13- to-19 year-olds are, were, or will be students at I Can Do Anything Charter High School. The charter school has an amazing performing arts program on top of its regular schedule of classes, which is why many students choose ICDA over standard high schools.
Being part of the intensive dance classes requires passing an audition and going to school from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. every weekday, not to mention rehearsals on weeknights, weekends and into the summer.
“It’s a big commitment for these kids,” says Gina Hill, dance instructor and founder of ICDA’s performing arts program. “During auditions, we’re not looking for talent or training, that’s our job. We’re looking for commitment, and with 10 hours a day, the kids find out real quick if that’s not what they want.”
As Hill speaks, the teens start rehearsing a Bob Fosse-inspired piece, set to the music of “Bye, Bye Blackbird.” Four boys in derby hats strut to center stage. They form a line, do some fancy tricks with their hats, then segue into an array of shimmies, hops, skips, spins and slides, all with that slinky and slippery Fosse-trademark style. At one point, two boys lift Chris Lash, 14, into the air. Lash is well over six feet tall with a mop of black hair. He is flexible enough to do the splits while suspended three feet above the ground, one boy holding either of his calves.
Then the girls join in, and things get snappier and sexier than you’d ever expect from a group of adolescents.
Aaron Rogers, who will soon be in eighth grade and has only been dancing since September, will be a special guest in the Center performance. In the “Bye, Bye Blackbird” piece, Rogers stands at the front of the line-up.
“I’m a little bit intimidated,” Rogers says. “I’ve only been rehearsing for three days. … I started dancing because it sounded like something good to do at my school. It’s fun. It keeps me out of trouble.”
Jeanette Faber, 15, does some dexterous lifts with her partner Chad Holdridge during the jazzy Fosse number. Faber lives in Truckee and comes to ICDA just for the performing arts classes. She has been dancing since she was two and a half. “I never partner danced before I came here, and it was something I always wanted to do,” Faber says. “It was one of my dreams. … I love going to school here. Even on my sick days I say, ‘Mom, please let me go to school, please.’ It’s a blast. We’re like a big family.”
Hill admits that the dance class is a home away from home.
“These kids are close . . . and very dedicated," she says. "It’ll be a great performance."