Final pose of “Copacabana.” “Copacabana” was choreographed by Franklin senior Luis Barrios and performed by the period two Advanced Dance class during the 2023 Arts Alive. Photo by Leif Sjoquist.
3…The lights are dimming. 2…Voices are hushing. 1…Excitement is building. On screen, an old fashioned film reel counts down to zero.
The show begins with a charming black and white video of a skit, titled “Sabotage and Scandal.” As the name suggests, in the skit understudies sabotage the first cast, causing hilarity to ensue. This skit opens the show’s “decades” theme, starting in the 1920s and following the passage of time until it takes us to the present.
The show transitions, lifting the curtain to reveal the Franklin Jazz Band. The band plays a rendition of “Ain’t Misbehavin’” to accompany beginning dance period six, as they dance in a 1920s speakeasy.
The band stays on stage to provide the live music experience of the 1930s and 40s for the next couple of pieces. The classic “Puttin’ on the Ritz,” performed by the band and the Franklin Tap Company, was especially entertaining because of Franklin senior and student choreographer Luis Barrios’ charm and ability to twirl a cane. Sam Doty’s (12) arrangement of “All The Things You Are,” performed by The Doty Big Band, was deeper and more dynamic than the original, giving it a new and interesting edge. “Bizet Has His Day,” performed by Advanced Dance period two, finished out the 40s with a second group tap piece.
In between “Bizet Has His Day” and “Times Square,” senior Amelia Dusevoir sings “Anything Goes,” a song written by lyricist Cole Porter for the Broadway musical “Anything Goes.” Not only is it a charming song, it is a sweet, although possibly unintentional callback for those who remember the Franklin theater department putting on the same musical in the fall of 2018. “Anything Goes” suits Dusevoir’s voice, who can hit the notes precisely and with sharp clarity, making the short piece performed on an empty stage a highlight of the show.
Dusevoir says her favorite part of Arts Alive is the feeling of performing. “It’s just a very rewarding feeling to finally see all the hard work pay off and finally get to show people who don’t see what we do every day … all these fun things that we get to do.” She adds, “And I love getting to sing on stage, that’s always fun.”
While “Times Square” was colorful and silly, it relied heavily on the use of props. “Surfs Up” suffered from a similar problem. The overuse of props distracted from the dancers, and didn’t showcase their potential.
On the flip side, when used strategically, props had the opportunity to enhance a dance and give it a surprising flair. A perfect example of this is the rag choreography in “Greased Lightning.” The way the dancers used their rags was inventive, and added to the piece instead of distracting from it. The energy of the dancers, especially sophomore Bobbi Bollock, added the perfect amount of swagger, and was the cherry on top of this dance.
Seniors Sophia Goble, Crea Sisco, and Delia Graham sang a beautiful rendition of The Supremes’ “Up The Ladder To The Roof,” capturing the harmonies of the original song.
Advanced Dance performed choreography created by senior Luis Barrios, set to the 1985 disco anthem “Copacabana (At the Copa).” The song is about a showgirl in the 1940s named Lola (played by senior Ava Penberthy) who falls in love with a bartender named Tony (Diego Ocampo (12)) and her loss and grief over his untimely death. Songwriters Jack Feldman and Bruce Sussman were inspired to write “Copacabana” after a real night club, the Copacabana Hotel in Rio de Janeiro, and put it to music composed by Barry Manilow.
When coming up with choreography for “Copacabana,” Barrios was inspired by his Latin roots and aimed to incorporate a lot of hip and foot work in the piece. His goal was to use the story the song tells, and give it the dance the energy of a “PG burlesque [show].”
Barrios says he was only given a handful of rehearsals, resulting in “unwanted changes to [his] original choreography and costumes,” leaving the final piece at odds with his original vision. Despite the obstacles, Barrios says the positive response from classmates and the opening night audience made him feel better about the outcome of the dance.
This opportunity for Barrios to use his freedom of choreography paid off, as “Copacabana” ended up being one of the most engaging and enjoyable pieces in the show. The choreography seamlessly complemented the song’s storytelling. Beginning Dance student Yggdrasil Antal (9) said they loved “Copacabana” because of how dramatic it was, specifically citing Penberthys’ acting. The result of all the elements of performance was spectacular, and had audiences humming lyrics to “Copacabana” under their breath for days after.
Sylvia Glazer (10), Avery Becker (10), Ruby Rippetoe-Crawford (10), and Mara Babasin’s (11) rendition of “Rhiannon” by Stevie Nicks was wonderfully 70s, down to the smallest details in their costumes. “Rhiannon” was the perfect song for this group to play as it settled the theater before the next high energy piece.
The 80s were represented in a piece called “Neon Dream” which was composed of three smaller pieces: Michael Jackson’s “Beat It,” the psychedelic “Xanadu,” and the classic “Footloose” by Kenny Loggins. “Xanadu” starred Penberthy, Anastasia Irvine (12), and Grace Wilde (12) who completed mesmerizing loops on roller skates. Watching them was half nerve wracking and half awe inspiring as they flung each other across the stage. While “Footloose” was fun, the song provides a perfect opportunity for synchronized choreography, which the piece didn’t do. Using this song felt like a missed opportunity, because it could have been used in a more strategic way.
After intermission, the Franklin Percussion Ensemble performed “Beacons of Light” by Chad Heiny, an arrangement that placed them fifth at the district competition. The piece was composed in memory of Ryan McCutcheon, a young percussionist who passed away when he was 19. The group act transitioned into a solo, which alternated between two pieces depending on the night. On opening weekend, Opal Rockett (11) performed her original composition “Raindrops” on the cello, which was forlorn and tragic sounding, while on closing weekend, Leo Edwards (11) played “Anubis” by Blake Tyson on the marimba.
The only ballet piece of the show, “La Danse des Dieux,” performed by the ballet company and accompanied by the junior company, showed off the mesmerizing strength of the dancers, especially Josie Wagner (10) and KD Nine (10), who stayed on pointe for an impressive length of time. While ballet pieces are often very technical and stoic, this piece was dramatic and told a story, which made it more fun. The title of the piece, “La Danse des Dieux” translates from French to “Dance of the Gods,” a theme that the costumes, stone-colored togas, reflected. The piece was split into smaller “acts,” allowing for all the dancers in the ballet company to have a moment to shine.
“‘N the Mix” breaks the quieter, more somber portion of the second act, with four high energy works composed by drag queen B. Ames, featuring songs “Work Bitch” by Britney Spears, “Hot Couture” by Manila Luzon, and “Work” by Iggy Azalea. Various dancers punctuated the end of the dance with a ‘death drop,’ an impressive and dangerous dance move where the performer throws one leg in the air and falls to the floor.
Guest choreographer Sara Parker choreographed Advanced Dance period five’s “Shinogi” and Advanced Dance period two’s “Lament” to “Adagio For Strings” by Samuel Barber. Lament was an emotional piece and told a powerful story about loss. It was organic and beautiful and dedicated to the families of two Franklin students who passed away this year.
The Musical Theatre Company performed “Ex-Wives” from the British musical “Six,” about the six wives of Henry the eighth. The musical utilizes the famous poem “Divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived” to introduce each of the queens. Performers Sophia Goble, Delia Graham, Twylo Landey (12), Amelia Dusevoir, Crea Sisco, and Everette Cogswell (12) all brought amazing energy to this song, and sang clearly and beautifully. “Ex-Wives” was loud, fun, and the perfect transition into the excitement of the show’s finale.
PD-K performed “Antifragile,” a piece choreographed by K-pop idols Lee Jung Lee, Silvergun, and Park Soyeon. As usual, PD-K excitement was contagious, and each set of moves raised the energy in the theater.
Besides the few student choreographed pieces, Arts Alive was missing the student innovation that the Winter Dance Showcase celebrated. The student pieces in Arts Alive were full of creativity, and often the most interesting to watch. A piece that exemplifies this best is “SLAYNATION.”
To conclude the show, the Hip Hop Company performed an original piece called “SLAYNATION,” which was choreographed by seniors Isabel Deumling and Anabelle Jukkala, and set to a remix of a handful of songs including ScHoolboy Q’s “Collard Greens,” Megan Thee Stallion’s “Her,” and Rihanna’s “Bitch Better Have My Money.” Alongside Barrios, Deumling and Jukkala were recipients of the Keith Goodman Memorial Award for Excellence in Choreography and Performance. Dancer Sailor Lombardi (11), recipient of the University of Illinois Summer High School Dance Intensive Scholarship, said their favorite part of the whole show was “SLAYNATION” because it “shows [him] the highest goal [he] can achieve” in the future. The show’s program included Deumling and Jukkala’s goal for choreographing and directing. “Our mission was to share the confidence and joy hip hop has brought to our lives with our peers, shine a spotlight on the genre, and expand our comfort zone in terms of choreographing, teaching, and directing as a team.” Their choreography and energy on stage perfectly exemplified their mission, and their confidence and joy made the piece truly a showstopper.
This show marks the last performance at Franklin for many of the seniors in the dance and music programs, a fact that made closing night particularly impactful. The emotion of the performers was palpable, especially during the closing number, “What I Did for Love.” Because the seniors in the performing arts are graduating soon, Arts Alive was the perfect opportunity to celebrate the time, energy, and hard work the performers put into their craft. It has been an honor to cheer them on through their years performing for Franklin, and it will be a pleasure to see what they do after they graduate.