WARREN, NJ - Some 26 student dancers entertained audiences at two nights of the 2019 Watchung Hills Regional High School (WHRHS) Dance Ensemble Performance, Friday and Saturday nights, May 10 and 11, in the WHRHS Performing Arts Center (PAC).

The students performed some 13 pieces of modern dance at the shows. Many of the dances were choreographed by the students of the ensemble, themselves. The Dance Ensemble Adviser is Tara Catalina. 

The Dance Ensemble Performance is part of a larger Arts Festival that occurs every year during the Spring semester. This year’s festival highlights include:  On Wednesday, May 29, National Arts Honors Society Induction Ceremony; followed by an Artists Reception and Art Exhibit of hundreds of pieces of original paintings, drawings, photographs, sculptures, ceramics, weaving, jewelry, wood working, mixed media and more; and Theater and Film presentations.

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Music is featured on the next two nights: On Thursday, May 30, the Spring Vocal Concert, followed by, on Friday, May 31, the WHRHS Band Concert. 

Earlier this Spring, another taste of music was offered at the Annual Spring Jazz Concert, which was held on Friday, April 5. And on three days in mid-March, the annual Spring Musical, “Fiddler on the Roof,” filled the PAC with drama, song, and dance, March 21-23.

Sharing Their Love of Dance

“Dance Ensemble is a co-curricular after-school activity that allows students to learn various dance styles, illustrate their choreography, collaborate with other dancers, showcase their artistic expression, and share the love of dance to surrounding communities,” according to the WHRHS Web site on co-curricular activities.

Dancers must audition for this highly selective group. They also present selected works at the annual Somerset County Teen Arts Festival, and other venues throughout the school year.

The performances utilized the broad and deep PAC stage, with creative use of a wide spectrum of theatrical lighting effects. Among them were vivid and colorful back lighting to set moods that support the aesthetics of the dances and their accompanying recorded music. 

The dancers showed a broad range of dance vocabulary, executing precision large-group dance weaves. Dances were varied also by speed and volume. They utilized sequential movement, running elements, circling elements, lifts, leaps, spins, as well as acrobatic and gymnastic signature moves. Their repertoire included bending over backwards, exaggerated stepping, roll overs and trust falls.

All dancers appeared in multiple numbers, while the evening also included some solo, duet and small ensemble pieces.

The dances featured a variety of minimalist costume changes that nevertheless added to the distinctions between numbers. The last dance, “Senior Piece,” featured dancers wearing t-shirts from the colleges the dancers aspire to attend next year.

The dance titled, “Girls,” featured six popular songs, all sung by popular female recording artists. The dancers clearly channeled a fun, energetic aesthetic that was apparent in the dancer’s expressions, in their movement as well as in their vocal shouts of glee.

Likewise, the dance titled, “Dance Pe Dance,” was a tribute to the Bollywood aesthetic. It involved the entire ensemble, including student ensemble dancer, Rohan Kansagra. He wore a traditional formal white male tunic that he explained backstage would be appropriate for a traditional ceremony, such as a wedding, in India. This performance seemed to take on the exuberance of the dancing section of a joyous Indian wedding celebration – an exuberance picked up by the PAC audience.  They picked up on the dancers’ portrayal of joy, and seemed to join in the wedding festivities, before ending the piece with loud sustained applause.

The 2019 Dance Ensemble members are: Noelle Kulisz, Jenna Hansen, Carissa Putuelo, Jaemi Spaven, Lauren Ng, Ariana Stoddard, Abigail Kotar, Allison Manspeizer, Sabrina Lane, Gianna Olivapotenza, Victoria Pantagis, Mallory Helmes, Daria Moni, Olivia Kider, Alexis Rokosny, Brianna Casas; Raina Kansagra; Hollace Chase, Sophia Vala, Brianna Robinson, Maahi Manek, and Julia Piela, Maria Irvin. 

The Dance Ensemble performance numbers were:

“Queen,” choreographed by Tara Catalina; music, “We Will Rock You”/ “Another One Bites The Dust”/ “We Are The Champions,” by Queen.

“6.22.18,” choreographed by Noelle Kulisz; music, “Hotel California,” by The Eagles.

“Retro Vibes,” choreographed and performed by Hollace Chase; music, “Level Up,” by Ciara.

“Kappee,” choreographed by Julia Piela; music, “Kappee, by Varttina.

“It Comes and Goes,” choreographed and performed by Aayushma Patel; music, “Waves,” by Dean Lewis.

“Always Here,” dedicated to Maria Kavouras, choreographed and performed by Victoria Pantagis; music, “The Fault in Our Stars,” by Troye Sivan.

“Dance Pe Chance,” choreographed Aayushma Patel; music, “Dance Pe Chance,” by Sunidhi Chauhan and Labh Janjua.

“Human,” choreographed by Abigail Kotar; music, “Human,” by Rag ‘N’ Bone Man.

“Time Gone By,” choreographed and performed by Sabrina Lane; music, “Young Love Lost,” by Appleby; 

“Til The End, choreographed by Ariana Stoddard; music, “Clockwork,” by Phillip Klein; 

“Girls,” choreographed by Allison Manspeizer; music, “Diva” by Beyonce; “Salute,” By Little Mix; “Run the World” by Beyonce; “Hollaback Girl,” by Gwen Stefani, “Fergalicious” by Fergie; and “Wannabe” by Spice Girls. 

“May I Have This Dance,” choreographed by Carissa Pitruele; music, “May I Have This Dance,” by Meadowlark; 

“Senior Piece,” choreographed and Performed by the Seniors of Dance Ensemble; music, “Send Me On My Way,” by Rusted Root.

WHRHS Dance Ensemble 2019 Seniors, and the colleges they plan to attend next year, are: Allison Manspeizer, University of Wisconsin; Sabrina Lane, Vanderbilt University; AayushmaPatel, Rutgers University; Ariana Stoddard, Pace University; Carissa Putruele, University of Pittsburgh; Daria Monti, Fairleigh Dickinson University; Jaemi Spaven, Montclair State University; Julia Piela, University of Helsinki; Mallory Helmes, Kean University; Maria Irvin, Kean University; Raina Kansagra, University of Michigan; Victoria Pantagis, Fordham, University.