Sunday, 17 June 2018


Author Benh Lieu SONG
Licence Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 3.0 unported
Source Wikipedia

Studio 59 Querencia 16 June 2018, 19:30 Victoria Theatre, Halifax

Querencia is an unusual title for a Halifax dance studio's annual show. Look it up in a Spanish dictionary and one of the meanings is "haunt" as a noun in the sense of a place where living creatures as well as unquiet spirits like to go. Hemingway used the term as the bull's space in the bull ring. The show's programme shows a pride of lions under the words "a place from which one's strength is drawn, where one feels at home: the place where you are your most authentic self."

Hmmm! Well I guess the show's organizers had to call it something even if most of the audience (I included) had to google the name.  Student shows are very important because dance developed in the theatre and is intended for an audience.  As I said in my review of Hype Dance's Annual Show 13 May 2018:
"Every dance student from toddler to pensioner can and should feel that charge no matter how inexperienced or incompetent he or she may be. Most get that opportunity because almost every dance school worth its salt offers its students a chance to take part in its annual show. Training and rehearsing for that show is what distinguishes dance classes from dreary keep fit."
This was a particularly ambitious show because it took place in Halifax's main repertory theatre which seats over 1,500 patrons and consisted of almost 2 hours of continuous, vigorous dancing. Considering that Studio 59 opened its doors only 18 months ago and has just under 100 registered students this was an impressive undertaking.

I was there at the invitation of one of the dancers who attended Jane Tucker's class for Powerhouse Ballet on 26 May 2018 (see We have a Company 27 May 2018 Powerhouse Ballet).  She told us about this show when Amelia Sierevogel and I visited her Thursday evening ballet class at Ballet North on 31 May 2018 (see Class Review - Ballet North Halifax 2 June 2018).

The show consisted of 19 pieces in every style from ballet to tap.  It opened with a scene from Hairspray with the girls in flowing full length dresses performing a high octane routine.  Grace Allen as Corny Collins made a very convincing young man.  I could not fault the dancing.  It was exuberant and fun to watch.  The only part of that piece which could have been improved was in the dialogue. The Baltimore accent is particularly difficult to imitate as Maryland lies just south of the Mason-Dixon line but is influenced by the more nasal tones from New Jersey and New York and the nearest thing Americans have to a received pronunciation in Washington DC. I would have thought the girls' natural voices would have been good enough especially as the West Riding has quite a lot in common with Baltimore.  Also, the casting was a bit strange with the mother looking very much younger than her teenage daughters unless irony was intended by the producer.

Hairspray was followed by Milkshake by the intermediate commercial class, a tap number We both reached for the gun from Chicago, Ice Royalty (hip hop), Can Can (great dancing but no fin de siècle music), Wash & Set in heels, Bye Bye Blackbird (more tap this time by the intermediate class which was one of my favourites), Youth (lyrical), Gangland (more hip-hop), I just can't wait to be king (another favourite performed by two very talented young girls Elenya Coates and Grace Raine) and finally the ballet which wound up act 1.

The ballet was called Young & Beautiful and combined the junior, intermediate and senior classes in one piece.  The dancers performed in grey classical tutus and what appeared to be lemon coloured tops. The senior dancers wore eye masks and pointe shoes.  There seemed to be quite a lot of bourrées on full pointe and demi which must have required some stamina.  Even though ballet accommodates every type of music and none (even Bollywood as my old university dance club showed in Colour of Love) I wondered at the juxtaposition of classical tutus with anything but classical music. However, the piece was performed slickly. It was well rehearsed and thoughtfully choreographed.  I congratulate those who coached the artists as well as the artists who took part.

The second act began with Tribute, a jazz piece celebrating 100 years of women's suffrage.  It was followed by Black Magic (junior commercial), Pop Mania (more jazz and a very confident performance by two junior dancers), Chun Li (more hip hop), Flashmob  (break dance and acrobatics which was the only piece that included some boys), OTW (more commercial) and Tapathon that included another appearance by the talented Grace Raine).

Throughout the show there were breaks for speeches by a lady and gentleman who appeared to be in charge of Studio 59.  They presented small silver cups to students they wished to reward.  At the very end of the show they and each of the choreographers performed a party piece to prove that they had not forgotten their dance skills.

It goes without saying that a lot of work must have gone into the show. Not only with the dancing but also with the costumes, properties and lighting.  It was entertaining for the audience and must have been fun to rehearse and perform.  Studio 59 have every reason to be pleased with the result.

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