Brittany McCrum (in the white top on the left) of Soldotna was one of more than 30 dancers who strutted their stuff their stuff Saturday at Kenai Central High School during auditions for Arctic Winter Games opening and closing ceremonies.
Photo by Joseph Robertia
Dancers anywhere face challenges in the course of performing in costume, but this is Alaska and the way of life here can be a little tougher, as more than 30 young women and men found out at Kenai Central High School on Saturday during an audition for the upcoming Arctic Winter Games opening and closing ceremonies.
To make the final cut, dancers had to be determined with good physical fitness, bird-like balance and cat-like coordination oh, and they had to be willing and able to perform ballet in Bunny Boots.
This may sound funny but it truly is part of the opening ceremonies for the Games. Those who attended the audition took it seriously, particularly after hearing from Terri Zopf-Schoessler, one of the choreographers in charge.
"This is no hometown production. It's an enormous show. The biggest the peninsula has ever put on," she told those trying out.
Zopf-Schoessler went on to explain that the Bunny Boot Ballet was just one part of a five-movement piece for an Alaska History Montage that will be performed.
The first piece features Alaska Native dancers and drummers. This is followed by an early explorer-gold rush piece that features a high-kicking performance by can-can dancers. Then, it's on to statehood, oil development and the conclusion that focuses on fishing, hunting and our modern way of life.
This montage performance will require 21 core dancers, as well as up to 100 nondancing performers. Saturday's audition was the first step in whittling down who those people will be.
"It will be a conglomeration," Chris Morin, another of the choreographers in charge, said in regard to who will make the final cut.
"We want kids, adults and families," Zopf-Schoessler said. She explained that although each family member may fill a different role, they would all be able to participate in the overall performance together.
"We've got lots of trained dancers," Morin said. "We are really grateful to the local dance studios. They've all been very supportive and encouraged their dancers to audition."
Dancers were physically tested through the audition. They were asked to perform many moves from several different styles of dance from ballet to hip-hop all while maintaining a smiling face.
"In addition to looking at their moves we want to see how quickly they pick up a sequence," Zopf-Schoessler said.
"We want a group that really works well together and encourages each other," Morin said.
This didn't seem difficult for those who attended, since many knew each other already.
"All the studios work well together. It's pretty friendly, so I know a lot of the other girls," said Heather Penhale of Nikiski who attends Vergine's Dance Studio in Soldotna.
Penhale said she came to the audition for many reasons.
"I came for the exposure. I've been dancing for six years and want to be a professional dancer, so any opportunity to dance I can get, I want to take.
"Also, my brother wrestled in the Arctic Winter Games in Canada last year, so now it's my turn to participate in them," Penhale said.
Dustin Miller of Soldotna who also attends Vergine's said he was happy he came to the audition.
"I'm new to dancing. I've only been dancing 11 months, but talked to other dancers and they said I should come for the experience.
"It was great. It really surprised me how quickly I picked stuff up. The dancers from the other studios really motivated me," Miller said.
Miller added that he thought it would be exciting to take part in the Arctic Winter Games ceremonies.
"It's a great opportunity to perform in front of people from the community, but also for people from around the world," he said.
Upon the completion of the audition, the choreographers said they were happy with the performance they saw.
"I'm super pleased. We can do an awful lot with what we have, so I'm thrilled," Morin said.
Making the cut in this first audition wasn't the end, but the beginning for the dancers. Starting this weekend at Skyview High School they will begin weekly rehearsals that will last until the Games begin in March.
More performers still are sought. Those interested should call Chris Morin at 283-7603 for more information.
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