April 28, 2016

Spring Dance News

Looking Back at Open Stage II

Open Stage II, 2016
April 16, 2016, was an exciting evening of original, innovative dance as Oakwood High School students presented Open Stage II.  Performing their own choreography, students wowed audiences with soaring and emotional routines they perfected in this year’s Hip Hop, Jazz, and ChoreoLAB classes.


Guest Artist, Jordan Wentz, with the Jazz class.

The Roots of Jazz Dance

Eliza, 9th Grade

Jazz dance is most commonly seen on stage in musicals today, but it wasn’t always purely for theatre. Most of its roots are in African dance, and we see this in various aspects of jazz such as grounded movement, rhythmic syncopation, the isolation of body parts, and undulating spinal movement. These elements were found in movements created by slaves from Africa and evolved for use in minstrel shows and vaudeville performances. Tap dance, which is also part of the jazz lexicon, is deeply rooted in African aesthetics. However, as jazz grew it was stifled in America by racism and prejudice, so it migrated to Europe where slaves and immigrants were able to participate in the arts more openly.

In Europe, jazz took off and became an integral part of the culture. Jazz dominated America in the late 1940s and 50s when swing, a style of partner dance, became popular among youth, mainly in dance halls and parties. Popular choreographers started to take note of the emerging dance style and developed it. One such choreographer was Jack Cole, known as “the father of jazz.” He created a jerkier, more isolation-based form of jazz that was developed further by popular choreographer Bob Fosse, who turned jazz into an art form largely exhibited in musical theatre.

From there, jazz continued to develop, branching off into modern jazz, musical theatre, swing, lyrical jazz, and even hip hop and house dance styles. All of this rich history helped jazz dance become the intricately beautiful art form that it is today.

Guest Artist, Andrew Pearson, with ChoreoLAB.
Guest Artist, Angel Tyson, with ChoreoLAB.

Choreography Tips and Tricks

Sami, Paige, and Emma, 10th Grade ChoreoLAB

Ways to get started with choreography:
—Find inspiration in art, music, or a phrase of movement.
—Improvise until you find something you like.
—Make a structure—a beginning, middle, and end.

Tips for dancer’s block (aka losing inspiration or getting stuck):
—Show your piece to someone else, a trusted friend or teacher, and get feedback.
—Think about the dance you’ve always wanted to do and your main goal for that dance.
—Think outside the box; try movement you haven’t done or seen before.

Remember, dance is about expressing yourself and a story through movement. Have fun and do what you love.

Dance enables you to find yourself and lose yourself at the same time.

Guest Artist, Brian Liam, with the Hip Hop class.

Student Performance Reviews

Did you know that every student in the Oakwood Performing Arts Department is required to see and review an Oakwood show each trimester they’re enrolled in a performing arts class? For example, students taking dance must see a show presented by the Theatre or Music Programs. They must then write a performance review of what they saw and thought about the show. This is a way we encourage students to support the other performing artists at Oakwood, to develop critical thinking skills, and to diversify their knowledge of the performing arts.

Here are the 2015-16 shows presented by the Oakwood Performing Arts Department:

10/28–10/29 High School Play | 11/13 Dance Concert (Modern 1/Hip Hop) | 11/19 8th Grade Play | 12/3 Winter Concert | 12/15 Jazz Concert | 2/24–2/28 Rent | 3/11–3/12 Tenth Grade Play | 3/15 Improv | 3/16 Chamber Music/MS Glee 2 | 4/16 Dance Show (Jazz/ChoreoLAB/Hip Hop) | 4/29 Jazz Concert | 5/20 Big Band Concert | 5/27–5/29 12th Grade Play | 6/1 Spring Concert | 6/2 Dance Show (Modern 2/Sketch Comedy) | 6/3 Arts Festival | 6/10–6/11 Middle School Performing Arts Event

The Oakwood Dance archive contains 15 years of performances on video.

Over 15 Years of Dance at Oakwood School

Thanks to the hard work and generosity of dance dad Kevin Dole, we now have a dedicated Oakwood Dance video channel featuring over 15 years of dance shows! Kevin spent countless hours uploading dusty VHS videos and DVDs to create an online archive of every single dance performance we have recorded since the year 2000. This channel will now be the place to enjoy recent and past dance shows—all in chronological order!  There are shows that took place in the Oakwood theatre before it was turned around, shows performed off campus at such venues as the Echo Park Rec Center and Diavolo Dance Space in Downtown L.A., and shows in the dance studio before the floor was all scuffed up. Thank you, Kevin, for making such an important and helpful contribution to the Oakwood Dance Program!