NDSS dance teacher Kelly Barnum likes to push her students to explore heavy topics through dance, and this year her class is staging a production that depicts what students experience during and after a school shooting.
On Jan. 19 the Nanaimo District Secondary School semester-end dance showcase returns to Malaspina Theatre. The event will feature the debut of Fall from Innocence, a production which portrays a school going into lockdown after gunfire is heard, students barricading their classroom and one of the students risking her life to save her friends.
“Our creation for this year is looking at what that experience is like for students going through a school shooting and the variety of ways that students interact with each other during that experience,” said Barnum, who is directing the production.
“We find it’s not necessarily talked about in Canada because it doesn’t happen as much here in Canada,” choreographer Sarah Kielly said of the subject matter. “But we also realized how impactful and powerful it is coming from actual students telling this story and sharing it with other students.”
Kielly said it was an especially challenging and time-consuming process to find the right music to tell the story in a way that “isn’t so in-your-face but really gets the point across.” She ended up picking mostly instrumental pieces, including music from the slasher movie Scream. She said her aim was to “create movement that shows the students as real people and not just dancers.”
“There’s lots of acting and lots of more realistic movement as opposed to super traditional ballet choreography,” she said.
This past November the NDSS dancers joined other local performers to present the musical revue All Together Now at Malaspina Theatre and Barnum said it gave her students a chance to focus on their acting.
“Obviously those pieces were a lot happier but it gave them another opportunity to practise their acting,” she said. “So they’ve really risen to the challenge … and quite of few of them are developing into really great actors as well as dancers.”
“Not only are they learning the technical dance moves but they’re also having to dive into these characters that are really intense and it’s a lot of work,” Kielly said.
This is the first NDSS dance showcase in two years, as last year’s event was cancelled due to COVID-19. Barnum said her students have worked hard and overcome many obstacles and she’s excited for them to have the chance to be onstage again.
“For our students it’s a huge moment for them to finally be able to show their work instead of just their parents hearing from us that they’re doing a great job…” Kielly said. “So it’ll be so exciting for them to actually see the work that these dancers are putting in.”
WHAT’S ON … NDSS semester-end dance showcase takes place at Malaspina Theatre, VIU Bldg. 310, on Jan. 19. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., show at 7 p.m. Tickets available at the door or NDSS main office.