By Debbie Adams
Students at the BCAT (Burton Center for Arts and Technology) Center for Performing Arts presented a dance recital at William Byrd High School on February 22. This was not your run-of-the-mill dance recital—the students far exceeded expectations with performances which not only displayed their talents, but in some instances “bared their souls.”
Dance instructor Kelli Manor explains, “The Center for Performing Arts is a pre-professional training program for Musical Theatre created by Roanoke County Schools and located at the Burton Center for Arts and Technology. Students audition from all over Roanoke County Public Schools to join the Center for Performing Arts and study acting, voice and dance for four years.”
The program is set up as a musical theatre program so students study all three disciplines.
“This was the first annual dance recital,” Manor said. “In previous years, we have produced holiday shows combining vocal and dance performances. At the end of the 2019 school year, administration and staff collaborated to give the program a bit of an update, in an effort to provide students more of an instructional emphasis. Three individual showcase/recitals came from those discussions.”
“Earlier this year students performed in an acting showcase in October and in a vocal recital in December,” she added. “In the 4th nine weeks, CPA produces a book musical each year. This year Carol Webster is directing Suessical, Jr. on April 30 and May 1 at 7 p.m. and on May 2 at 2 p.m.
Webster is the acting instructor at the CPA, while Brad Stump teaches voice.
While the dance recital on February 22 was not specifically for the seniors in the program, “I did intend to honor them and feature seniors as performers and choreographers as much as possible,” said Manor.
Students presented two performances at WBHS that day—one at 2 p.m. and one at 5. Performances opened with an introduction of the seniors in the CPA program: David Scott, Camryn Band, Kim Hoyle, and Nathan Patrick from William Byrd High School; Jake Dellinger, Gianna Gianni, Whitney Goodwin, and Chloe Oliver from Hidden Valley; Grace Layman and Jarrett Neese from Cave Spring; and Natalie Love from Northside.
“The dance program has an emphasis in movement styles for musical theatre,” Manor said. “We study ballet, Jazz, and tap primarily, but I also teach improvisation, modern and contemporary dance as much as time constraints allow. I also try to schedule guest artists in dance forms that I am less familiar with as often as possible (like hip hop and ballroom).”
While there was a great deal of movement onstage, there was also a great deal of toe-tapping among the members of the audience to tunes such as “If They Could See Me Now,” “This Joint is Jumpin’,” and “It Don’t Mean a Thing if it Ain’t Got that Swing.”
The troupe performed “Caledonia,” a love song to Scotland, the Beatles “Let It Be,” “Son of Man,” and “You’ll Be in My Heart,” and premiered “At Last I see the Light,” which they studied in order to learn ballet and safe and effective partnering techniques,
During the course of the performance, several seniors presented their original senior choreography projects derived from an assignment called “Spoken Word.”
The students were given several subjects to explore and directed to write a letter, poem or monologue of their choice. They choreographed or staged the pieces independently using their own words, ideas and movement prompts. Many were poignant. The topics they chose included self-esteem, friendship, addictions, body image, grief and loss, religion, and the end of childhood. They included “Burn” by Gianna Gianni, “Burn the Ships” by Nathan Patrick, “Arabian Nights” by Natalie Love, and “This is Me” by Jarrett Neese.
All four classes of CPA students have been working on a Tarzan project this year, inspired by Disney’s 2006 Broadway musical “Tarzan.” When completed, the Tarzan suite will include five different movements with styles in jazz, modern, lyrical, tap and pas de deux. On February 22, the group previewed two of the movements.
The dance recital concluded with a jazzy “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” written by Axl Rose, but covered by Sheryl Crow.
At one point the script of the program stated that “In the performing arts, we use a wide variety of tools and ideas to communicate with audiences. For dancers, the use of recorded music is very prevalent, but we also use live music, percussion, nonsense sounds as movement prompts, sound effects, silence–the list is long and is only limited by the imagination of dancers and choreographers. We would like to thank Matt Bartley for the use of his recording equipment and his expertise as a sound engineer. The voices and sounds you are hearing tonight are a product of student and technician collaborating to create an original work.”
The CPA students thanked Angel Sponsors Roanoke County Schools and the Kadolph Family; benefactors Cynthia and Jim Dellinger, and the Fox family; patrons Sue Koel, Whitney Rucker and the Art in Motion Dance Studio, Ken and Wanda Hamlett, Elizabeth Dellinger, Lori Rutherford, the Love and Di Francesco families, and an anonymous patron; and donors George and Billie Dawn Howell and Jan Neese.
“We would like to thank the Roanoke County School Board and Roanoke County Schools for their support,” said the CPA. “Also, thank you to Principal Tammy Newcomb and William Byrd High School for their hospitality and finally, thank you to Ginny Markham, Christian Kish and Melanie Fischer for their encouragement.”
Markham is the Roanoke County Supervisor of Performing Arts. Kish is the BCAT Principal, while Melanie Fischer serves as Assistant Principal.
In addition, the students paid tribute to Manor for her dedication to the program and its students.
Other William Byrd students who attend the CPA and performed in addition to seniors David Scott, Kim Hoyle, Camryn Band, and Nathan Patrick are Hanna Howell, Ellen Frary, Jason Cox, Brownyn Fenimore, Bailey Burger, Kaiya Hoagland, Maggie Rusinak, Victoria Lovern, Connor Pero, Carter Mullins, Alexus Taylor, and Natalie Schneider.
Students representing other Roanoke County Schools in the CPA who performed are Kennedy Malcolm, Anne Marie Thorell, Alexia Joachim, Caris Cranwell, Noah Kargman, Isaiah Phipps, David Di Francesco, Sydney Ogle, Kailyn Hardy, MaKenna Mitchell, Ella Tkachenko, Kaiya Hoagland, Emily Kadolph, and Ellie Roberson.
Dance instructor Kelli Manor describes herself as a “Virginia transplant” who “loves it here. My husband was transferred to Vinton with Nestle DSD. I have a son who is graduating from Byrd this year; he is a graduate of the Robotics/Mechatronics program at Burton, currently in the Roanoke County apprenticeship program. My daughter is a sixth grader at William Byrd Middle School where she loves choir with Matt Bartley.”
Manor says her six years at BCAT—other than guest artist work—are her first experience working with high school students. Most of her career has been directing, choreography, and teaching at the professional and university level. Her education includes a Bachelor’s in Broadcasting, a BFA in Dance Performance, and a Master’s in Dance Education. She has lived and worked in Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, Idaho, and Florida.
Anyone interested in the Center for the Performing Arts program at BCAT can find more information on the Roanoke County Schools website at https://www.rcps.us/.