Last Dance for the Class of 2015

*It’s been awhile here on the old blog. Of late, we have been crazy busy with dance. I ran into my former boss at Target a couple weeks back and have been inspired to try writing again. While this piece didn’t make the cut, I thought I’d share it anyway because the show is so good and the directors, staff and kids at Civic have worked very hard. I am continually blown away by what they accomplish each time my kids get to play a minor part in the work they do.

The caps have been thrown, inspiring speeches given and diplomas handed out, but for a group of local graduates there is still one last act for the Class of 2015: dancing their hearts out for Civic Dance Center’s 47th Annual Gala.

The studio responsible for putting on The Nutcracker in conjunction with The Bakersfield Symphony Orchestra, also puts together a lesser known spring show which features all of their dancers from the tiniest preschoolers to staff members, the senior Class of 2015 amongst them, of course.

The first half of this year’s show is an original storybook ballet. In “Once Upon a Time,” a group of orphans can’t decide which bedtime story they want to hear and instead pieces of each of their favorite fairytales – Cinderella, Frozen, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Aladdin, and Beauty and the Beast – are woven together.

The “princess ballet,” as some of the seniors referred to it, with lots of tutus will likely appeal to little girls, said Jennifer Barnes, 18, a Liberty High grad that will play a stepsister in the Cinderella portion of the story (Cast C). However, she notes, “I think there’s something in it for everyone because there are so many different stories, there’s a lot of action to keep people interested.” Fellow senior studio member, Hannah Contois, 18, a Centennial High grad, agrees, “Even if you are not into princesses there are several other characters to identify with, plus the opening number and the second half of the show with jazz and tap, there’s something for everyone.”

If your child is into the Frozen craze, Contois will likely be a favorite as Elsa (Cast B). Annalee Fanucchi, 18, a Liberty High grad said, “Definitely younger kids are going to love this show because it has all the Disney stories in there and Frozen is really popular.”

Contois said she’s planning to dance the roll with “no regrets.”

“I’ve always seen the seniors each year and just brushed it off, but yesterday I think it really clicked for me that this is probably my last show so I’m really trying to put so much more into it.”

Giving it your all is just one of many life skills the seniors say they will walk away with because of dance. Fanucchi who will play Snow White (Cast B) noted responsibility, staying focused, and time management.

“Discipline. You have to be there every day, on time, in the proper attire. You don’t talk back,” added Contois.

One of the traditions for seniors during all four Gala performances is to exchange gifts and memories during the cast call just before each show.

“We share our favorite memories and we get to say our goodbyes. We can’t wear makeup before that because there’s usually a lot of crying,” said Barnes.

Since they have all been at this studio for 12-14 years, from the time they were 4-6 years old, the seniors all noted the studio is like a family.

“It is one of the things I am going to miss the most, walking into the studio every week and having people that you know support you,” said Fanucchi.

Contois had a similar sentiment, “During busy seasons I am there for about 25 hours a week with my friends. I’m closer to them than any of my other friends at school or anywhere else. It’s so cool that dance is what brought us together, but we found that we have so many other things in common. I know I can talk to them about anything and they will always be there for me and they will always be my friends for the rest of my life, we are just that close.”

Life skills and a second family, why these seniors say their advice to younger dancers is to stick it out.

“It’s hard to make it to being a senior. There were definitely points when I thought maybe it would be OK to not do the jazz company and so many classes, but it is so worth it, to be on stage with your friends and hear the applause and do what you love. So my advice would be don’t quit,” said Contois.

As to whether they will continue dancing, the senior class is a bit mixed. Barnes who plans to stay in town and to start out at BC in the Fall said she thinks she is done. Fanucchi will be attending Fresno State and be on the dance team there.

Contois, who is headed for the pre-Med program at UC Davis said, “It’s been such a huge part of my life, I can’t imagine not doing it, not going more than a week without dance. So they (UC Davis) have a small dance program there and if I don’t do that then I will at least find a studio up there to take classes.”

*Disclosure: There were other studio members of the Class of 2015 that were unavailable for comment.

Civic Dance Center’s 47th Annual Gala
Bakersfield High School’s Harvey Auditorium, 1241 G St.
Tickets: Adults, $20; Students (7-18) and Seniors (65+), $14; Kids (6 and under) $5
Cast A: Thursday, June 11 at 7 p.m.
Cast B: Friday, June 12 at 7 p.m.
Cast C: Saturday, June 13 at 1 p.m.
Cast D: Saturday, June 13 at 7 p.m.

*****
And here is what rehearsing for Gala has looked like for my little crew.

Ethan’s class gets to be little genies (Aladdin). The other boy mom and I sewed some pants because the original sequin pants were a no-go for the dads.
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Jilly gets to be a little fairy (Sleeping Beauty).
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“Notes” (where the directors go over things that need to be fixed and praise things that were really great) at the end one of Ethan’s dress rehearsals.
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Keeping a 9-month-old happy, not screeching happy, but also not screaming crying unhappy during hours long dress rehearsals for older siblings is a bit of a challenge. Luckily he’s easy and the fourth child so crawling on the floor of a century-old theater doesn’t bother me like it would have when Jilly was a baby:
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The theater stage is a lot bigger than the studio, so one of the first things they do for the first theater rehearsal is blocking without music so the dancers can get used to being more spread out.
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This was Jilly’s last dress rehearsal on Tuesday night. She’s so excited for the big show!
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Peeking through the wings at the contemporary piece’s rehearsal just before we left for the night after her last dress rehearsal.
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