Picture depicts eight dancers in “SLAYNATION” twerking. “SLAYNATION” is a student-choreographed dance by Isabel Deumling and Anabelle Jukkala. Photo courtesy of Leif Sjoquist.
In June of 2022, my close friend Isabel Deumling and I were elected as Hip Hop Company captains for the 2022-2023 school year. This then led to the birth of “SLAYNATION,” an original hip hop piece to be performed for Arts Alive 2023. We are both seniors who have been in the Dance At Franklin program for all four years of high school, and this piece was our first original work of choreography. We’ve both had nearly a decade of dance experience, and this will be Isabel’s second time directing a dance for Arts Alive! We are both planning to study a minor in dance at the University of Oregon, and receive teaching licenses with hopes to keep teaching dance in the future.
With “SLAYNATION,” 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. Through producing this piece we gained a deeper understanding of the magic of dance and the importance of what it can bring to a community.
When it came to choosing songs for the dance, our vision transformed from a large-scale remix to longer excerpts from six main songs that pull from various subgenres of hip hop. For “SLAYNATION,” we wanted to include as much choreographic variety as possible and a mixture of all the styles that we love, leading to the division of three sections of choreography: hard-hitting and swaggy 90s grooves, vogue femme-inspired, and more modern, sassy, and female empowered hip hop inspired by our favorite choreographer, Parris Goebel. Isabel and I wanted this to be completely original, which inspired us to create our own remix under the direction of audio technician, and my uncle, George Lewis III. Through this process we were able to fully immerse ourselves in the core elements of dance: the music and the movement.
A central goal when casting and setting this dance on our advanced class was to utilize the wide variety of talent we had, and highlight the specialties and specific abilities of our dancers within each section of our dance. This was done by having our ballet trained dancers given a spotlight in the vogue section, and dancers with big stage presences given moments of pantomime during the final song “Bitch Better Have My Money” by Rihanna.
We began teaching this piece in October of 2022, and concluded in March of 2023. So as our skills as choreographers advanced, so did our teaching styles. “Finding those moments where I get super into it and I’m really passionate about the song or certain phrase and seeing the class get super into it too has been super rewarding,” said Deumling. By the end of the year, we had totally transformed the class into loving hip hop and really looking forward to what we had to teach! Hip hop at its core is confidence, so being able to give that gift to our peers is special.
We began this process in June of 2022 by searching for the songs we wanted to include in the remix. We initially had 16, but were able to reduce it down to six. Then in September of 2022 we officially began choreographing and finished the first section, which was then performed at the Winter Dance Showcase in December. In November, we began working on the finalized version of our remix with my uncle. In January of 2023 we began working on choreography again and teaching in small batches. In February, we finished the audio. Lastly, in March, we finalized all choreography and finished teaching the entire dance.
We are eternally grateful to have had this experience during our senior year of high school. Through this opportunity we have solidified our goal of dance being a permanent presence in our lives, and further strengthened our friendship along the way. We would love to thank everyone in the Advanced Dance Performance class for bringing our vision to life and working with us all year with grace and excitement. Along with George Lewis III for audio mixing; James Mapes for lighting design; Wrigley Cook, our hip hop apprentice; all of our past dance teachers and mentors who have developed both our movement and leadership skills; and lastly, Sonia Kellermann for being our cheerleader and mentor throughout the entire process.