Celebrating 20 years of dance
Current and former students of April School of Dance are showcasing a wide array of performances during the school's 20th annual review, "Deja Vu." This year also marks the 30th year of teaching for April Cush, dance school owner. The 2.5-hour show, with a 10-minute intermission, will take place tonight and Saturday evening beginning at 7 p.m. inside the St. Marys Area High School auditorium. Advance tickets, priced lower than those sold at the show, are available at The Village Peddler on Erie Avenue in St. Marys and Cliffe's in Ridgway.Every performance is a repeat from past shows over the last 19 years. In planning the 2012 show, Cush sought the dancers' opinions as to what their favorite past performances have been in order to incorporate them."Sometimes you remember them as just being good numbers and it worked really well because it was a good group of dancers. Others, the song is just really good or maybe the idea and concept is," Cush noted. "I feel for the most part a lot of the dances are better than the first time we did it. Definitely the advanced dancers have progressed to a higher level."The show opens with the "Circle of Life" routine from Disney's "The Lion King." This is the third time the African-themed contemporary piece is being performed onstage. "It's a great song and a powerful number," Cush said. Several numbers are featuring guest appearances by advanced dance students and other characters. Some of the characters are Jolly Holiday and a Chinese dragon during an acrobatic routine."In a lot of the dances this year we've been able to give the more advanced girls little, special parts. A lot of them are doing extra bits and pieces so it's keeping them busy," Cush said. "We picked a lot of the dances where there was something unique about them."One student turns into a dancing monster creation during the intermediate hip-hop classes' performance to a song from the movie "Weird Science."An outside guest of the school, Trevor Runco of Punxsutawney, is slated to perform a specialty solo from Cirque Du Soleil's "Michael Jackson's Immortal" tour. Runco also pairs up with Kaitlin Quinn in "Mary Poppins' Jolly Holiday," in "West Side Story's" number "America" as Bernardo along with Madelyn O'Leary as Anita, as well as in the finale as he tangos with Kristin Dippold. Other students showcase multiple skills, such as in one of Cush's favorite routines, "Hard-Knock Life," which allows them not only to dance but also to get some acting in and expressions. "We've worked a lot on that," Cush said.According to Cush, the routine which has received the most positive responses from students is "I Can Only Imagine," named after the song by Mercy Me. She described the piece as a lyrical routine with ballet added to it. A few numbers bridge the past to the future by showcasing their teachers who performed the same routine in their younger years at the school.One such piece is a beginner hip-hop routine, "Sharp-Dressed Man," during which Chelle Blankenship, who occasionally teaches at the school, makes a cameo appearance with her father and another young male dancer. Blankenship originally performed the routine with her classmates when she was three years old. Now at age 22, Blankenship and her father are returning to the stage.In "Music Box Dancer," Bailey Pretak will perform live on the piano onstage with her fourth and fifth grade ballet students. As a young dancer, Pretak played the role of the music box dancer.The show's nearly nine-minute finale, set to a remix from Broadway's "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat," features several different groups of dancers ranging from acrobats, tap dancers and cloggers to the contemporary dancers group, and other characters. While the school's 10-year show was titled "Flashback," Cush said it was appropriate to name their 20th show "Deja Vu.""Deja vu, I felt like I've been here before, seen that, done that," Cush said. Among the 150 dancers, ages four to adult, featured in the show are high school seniors Madelyn O'Leary from Elk County Catholic performing a tap number; Abigail Candalor from St. Marys Area performing a contemporary lyrical number; and Kearsten Trunzo from St. Marys Area performing a hip-hop piece. In addition, three former students, Amanda Blankenship, Caitlyn Pretak and Tasha Miller, each of whom participated in dance classes this year, are also in the show."It was really nice to have them back," Cush said.