Arts and Entertainment

Young dancers choreograph their own show

Dancers Mara Drape, Katherine Misel and Maeve Haselton perform in a past Original Works show. Drape and Haselton will be in this year’s show. - Mike Urban Photo
Dancers Mara Drape, Katherine Misel and Maeve Haselton perform in a past Original Works show. Drape and Haselton will be in this year’s show.
— image credit: Mike Urban Photo

Six years ago, Christine Juarez, the artistic director of the VAA Center for Dance, offered her senior dancers an opportunity to choreograph their own dances. She called the program Original Works and included the student choreographed dances in the annual spring ballet. Today, Original Works has grown into a separate performance and will be held this weekend at the Vashon High School theater.

Over the years as the popularity of Original Works grew, Juarez decided to make some changes. She opened up the program to students at higher dance levels — ages 10 to 18  — and invited the entire dance community to participate.

Invitations aside, the audition process requires effort and commitment on the part of the students. First the students prepare a one-minute piece to audition before a panel of seven judges. Dancers choose their own music, their own movement and whether to perform a solo or collaborate with others. Once they audition, the dancers receive feedback from the panel and the opportunity to work with VAA Center for Dance faculty before a second round of judging. In the past, not every piece of choreography made the cut. This year, Juarez said, the students worked hard and all of their pieces passed the adjudication process.

“This is the launch of our pilot performance,” said Juarez, whose vision encompasses future collaborations with musicians to create live music to accompany the dancers. “It’s all about showcasing emerging artists from 10 to 20 years old.”

Juarez eventually wants to hook this annual performance with multiple mediums and is setting the precedent this time by exhibiting student artwork from art teacher Terry Swift’s Vashon High School ceramics class.

With 35 dancers performing 15 original works, plus several pieces by Juarez’s intermediate/advanced modern and jazz class members, the program will feature primarily contemporary dance — a blend of modern and ballet — with one jazz and one point piece.

Juarez and her faculty — Vanesa Wylie from Cornish College who teaches ballet, modern and jazz; Crissy Baker who teaches tap and hiphop; Elizabeth Mendana Shaw, who teaches advanced modern and toddlers and Leah Mann, who instructs sports dance and acrobatic dance as adjunct faculty — also look forward to presenting Original Works on the new and larger stage at Vashon High School.

In keeping with Juarez’s commitment to bringing dance into the schools, a special showing of Original Works will be performed on Friday for students from all of Vashon’s schools.

Original Works will be performed at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, April 4 and 5, and 1 p.m. Sunday, April 6. Tickets are $12 for VAA members, students and seniors and $16 for general admission.

Tickets are on sale at VAA, Heron’s Nest and

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