Spring takes wing

Juneau Dance Unlimited's April Showcase features wide variety of dance styles and Alaska String Band

Posted: Friday, April 17, 2009

By featuring a vast array of dance styles, music and contributing artists, Juneau Dance Unlimited's April Showcase would best be described as diverse.

Brian Wallace / Juneau Empire
Brian Wallace / Juneau Empire

The show, to be held twice Saturday, will include advanced students and instructors performing classical ballet, modern, hip-hop, jazz fusion, ballroom, swing and salsa to a variety of music, including - for the first time - music by The Alaska String Band.

"The show has something for everyone," said artistic director Janice Hurley. "It is an eclectic mix of many different dance art forms and styles. As the name 'April Showcase' indicates, this show is an opportunity for several local choreographers to highlight their talents."

In describing her partnership with The Alaska String Band, Hurley said it came about when she heard one of the band's songs, "Maybe Someday," composed by band member Paul Zahasky. It moved her so much that she choreographed a four-person dance to it, which will show during the first half.

"Not only will (the band) play the piece live for the dancers, they have agreed to play a 10- to 15-minute set of music from their repertory," Hurley said. "Juneau Dance Unlimited is very excited to have the Alaska String Band as our musical guest artists in the show."

The Alaska String Band, comprised of Paul, Melissa, Laura, Quinn and Abigail Zahasky, will perform selections from its repertory just before intermission.

Also on the program are pieces by ballet master Joseph Schnell, modern instructor Leslie Ann Wagner, Hurley, salsa instructors Antonio Diaz and Heather Haugland, swing instructors Carrie and Matthew Warner and hip-hop instructor Sabrina Javier.

"It has been very interesting to see the show finally come together," Hurley said. "I believe our audiences will enjoy the variety of dance art forms they will experience."

Javier, who has been teaching a year and a half for JDU, agreed that the show will offer something for every type of music or dance lover.

"Every piece is different and unique, from dramatic to organic, to getting you off your feet and dancing along with the performers," she said. "You can see each of our (the choreographers') personalities in each piece as well as how, every year, each dancer advances in their technique and dance skills."

An admirer of many dance styles, Javier described Wagner's modern pieces as eye-popping.

"You never know what she's going to do next," Javier said. "Modern dance is so free and organic, it's like waves dancing to their own music when they crash ashore."

Diaz and Haugland's piece will be a combination between bachata, son, salsa and other Latin or South American dances done by way of solos, duets and group dances.

"It will definitely make your hips shake," Javier said.

Javier also complimented the Alaska String Band, saying it coordinated with the dancers well.

"All I have to say about that piece is that it will remind you of a Juneau summer," she said.

The Warners' swing routine also resonated with Javier.

"They are off the wall!" she said of the couple. "They have some crazy stuff going on in their routine from pick-ups, throwing, swinging, flipping and much more."

Javier herself will contribute to the finale with a hip-hop routine, which was named "Bounce" by the dancers themselves.

"It makes you get up and bounce with them," Javier said of the piece, which was originally two routines. "It incorporates a lot of music and a little of the acrobatic stuff, and it's a little more advanced."

Essentially, Javier hopes the entire show and its range of contributors will provide that "Wow" factor for the audience.

"People just expect that," she said. "They expect to just be blown away. So I think it's a perfect ending, because you're watching great ballet and modern routines, and you just end with a really upbeat (tone). It just keeps you thinking and keeps you moving. And I think that's important - something to always think about."

• Contact Neighbors editor Kim Andree at 523-2272 or kim.andree@juneauempire.com.

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