Arts News

Purple Rain
Posted 12/13/2016 10:27AM

Jazz Dance Show Presents Music and Dance Tribute to Prince

Each fall, the Bullis Arts Department collaborates to produce a combined jazz and dance show, featuring students from both areas along with the theater tech department. This fall's production focused on the music of Prince to honor him after his death in April at the age of 57.

"Prince was a unique performer who crossed over many different genres of music and appealed to so many audiences," said Cheryl Terwilliger, chair of the Bullis Performing Arts Department and jazz teacher/conductor. "His name had come up before when planning these events, but now the timing was right to honor his memory and the contribution he made to popular music and dance."

Planning for the annual show starts in the summer. Ms. Terwilliger and Dance Instructor Alana Hill each come up with their own 'wish lists' of numbers each would like performed, and which might be joint numbers of the dancers and musicians working together and which will showcase each department individually. These selections are based on a variety of criteria, including which tunes work well as instrumentals and which dance pieces work better with recorded music versus live music. "It's nice for the musicians and dancers to work together to produce cohesive numbers, and learning both the pacing and collaboration that's essential to a successful piece," said Ms. Terwilliger.

Next, the teachers get to work, with Ms. Terwilliger exploring arrangements of the tunes they will play and Ms. Hill getting started on choregraphy. For this show Ms. Terwilliger had to arrange many of the numbers herself because of the limited availability of commercially available arrangements for Prince's music. She then apportioned tunes between her Jazz Ensemble and the smaller Jazz Workshop groups.

Ms. Hill organizes the choreography of all the dance numbers, with some students personally choreographing some pieces and Ms. Hill tackling others. Guest choreographer and After School Dance Teacher Brianna Bailey also choreographed some numbers for this show. Four different dance ensembles come together for the show, representing After School Dance, Dance Ensemble, Advanced Dance Ensemble and Dance II.

This show also included one vocal performance by Joy Stewart '17, who sang "Nothing Compares to You," with a small trio of musicians. The song was a Sinead O'Connor hit that Prince wrote.

Also featured in the show was senior Henry Feigen (who also plays percussion with the jazz musicians) who dressed as Prince and appeared at the beginning and the end of the show.

The two departments work separately throughout the fall to prepare for the show, and come together for only the week leading up to the show for joint rehearsals. The show also gets great technical support from Anthony Brooks and his student team.

Nearly 90 students—dancers, musicians and technical team—come together for the show, alongside the support of many teachers, parents and staff.

"All of the shows are fun and different," said Ms. Terwilliger, already looking ahead to the possible themes for future shows.

View a photo gallery of the Jazz Dance Show

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