Grady musicals highlight students’ choreographic talent

DANCING+THROUGH+SCHOOL%3A+Junior+Ebet+Lansing+instructs+students+in+the+Musical+Theater+II+class++for+the+upcoming+performance+of+%E2%80%9CGrease.%E2%80%9D+Lansing+has+taken+on+the+role+of+choreography+for+the+production.+

DANCING THROUGH SCHOOL: Junior Ebet Lansing instructs students in the Musical Theater II class for the upcoming performance of “Grease.” Lansing has taken on the role of choreography for the production.

Jordan Killenberg

While Grady audiences are sitting in their auditorium seats and flipping through their playbill before a production, they often stop to read the director’s notes or look at the pictures of the high school actors.

However, many neglect to recognize the work that takes place before the performances by students and teachers. Often, the students play critical roles in the development of these productions as backstage assistants, directors, crewmembers, and even choreographers.

Junior Ebet Lansing, who plays Patty Simcox in the Musical Theatre class’ production of “Grease,” is taking on the role of choreographer for the production.

“I’m so excited for people to come to the show and be overwhelmed by how many people can really dance,” Lansing said. “It’s so amazing to see a side of them that they didn’t even know they had come out in their energy in the dances.”

In the upcoming production of “Grease,” the music and dance numbers are main focuses in the rehearsal process.

“I am so excited for the dance numbers, and Ebet has done such an incredible job creating the dance and getting the kids to dance,” Musical Theatre teacher and “Grease” director Lee Pope said. “Everybody is going to know the music and be excited to hear the music, but visually seeing the dancing is what I think is really going to get people.”

Historically, Grady has had student choreographers for many of its shows. Isabel Olson, who graduated in 2016, choreographed Grady musicals such as “Urinetown” and “The Wedding Singer” in 2015.

“[Student choreographing] is certainly a unique experience in terms of learning how to stand up in front of your peers and teach them a skill they don’t already know,” Olson said. “It is a huge task for a student to take on choreography, and it takes a lot of time and patience.”

Truthfully, having a student choreographer in a high school production does present some challenges and creates a unique dynamic; however, Lansing has been accepted by her peers as an instructor.

“The dances so far are so much fun and have so much energy all thanks to Ebet,” sophomore Bea Porges said. “She always asks me for feedback and really listens to us for our opinions on the dances.”

Olson also stresses the importance of having a passion for dance as a high school performer working with a peer choreographer.

“I found it incredibly rewarding to work with students who cared [about dancing],” Olson said. “To me, a kid with two left feet who actually wanted to learn was better than a kid who could dance but didn’t want to be there.”

As an experienced dancer, Lansing has had to learn how to choreograph for mostly new dancers.

“I plan the dances in advance, but if I get to class and something’s not working out, I can just change it and improvise new choreography,” Lansing said. “I thought it would be really hard, but [the students] make it so easy and give me feedback immediately.”

Olson also had to adapt the original choreography to a high school performance and cater to the abilities of her cast.

“At Grady, I developed my choreography based on the skill set of my peers,” Olson said. “As I progressed, I began to be more familiar with what they were capable of and who was capable of more.”

Alex Wolfe, a 2014 graduate, choreographed musicals such as “Thoroughly Modern Millie” and “Rent” during her time as a Grady student.

“Musical theater is a really fun style to choreograph for because the music really lends itself to dance,” Wolfe said. “Also, it can be really fun to work with your friends and to know that your school and classmates will get to see the work you are putting in.”

While choreographing a show as iconic as “Grease,” Lansing learned to creatively produce the dance numbers keeping the original in mind while incorporating up-to-date elements for her classmates as well. She has looked to “Grease: Live,” a popular production of “Grease” that premiered on the Fox television network in January 2016, for inspiration.

“‘Grease: Live’ had such a good sense of modernizing the classic sense of the musical,” Lansing said. “I try to change the dance moves and make them more modern as much as I can without changing the iconic style.”

Giving student choreographers this leadership position majorly influences them artistically. Wolfe continues to choreograph performances as a student at Vanderbilt University.

“[Student choreographing] allowed me to see my creative vision for a dance play out in real life while also allowing me to practice the craft and hone my skills,” Wolfe said. “Grady’s theater department does a great job of giving lots of opportunities to students, whether it’s through directing, running tech, or choreographing, and I think that’s really important.”

While Grady audiences are sitting in their auditorium seats and flipping through their playbill before a production, they often stop to read the director’s notes or look at the pictures of the high school actors.

However, many neglect to recognize the work that takes place before the performances by students and teachers. Often, the students play critical roles in the development of these productions as backstage assistants, directors, crewmembers, and even choreographers.

Junior Ebet Lansing, who plays Patty Simcox in the Musical Theatre class’ production of “Grease,” is taking on the role of choreographer for the production.

“I’m so excited for people to come to the show and be overwhelmed by how many people can really dance,” Lansing said. “It’s so amazing to see a side of them that they didn’t even know they had come out in their energy in the dances.”

In the upcoming production of “Grease,” the music and dance numbers are main focuses in the rehearsal process.

“I am so excited for the dance numbers, and Ebet has done such an incredible job creating the dance and getting the kids to dance,” Musical Theatre teacher and “Grease” director Lee Pope said. “Everybody is going to know the music and be excited to hear the music, but visually seeing the dancing is what I think is really going to get people.”

Historically, Grady has had student choreographers for many of its shows. Isabel Olson, who graduated in 2016, choreographed Grady musicals such as “Urinetown” and “The Wedding Singer” in 2015.

“[Student choreographing] is certainly a unique experience in terms of learning how to stand up in front of your peers and teach them a skill they don’t already know,” Olson said. “It is a huge task for a student to take on choreography, and it takes a lot of time and patience.”

Truthfully, having a student choreographer in a high school production does present some challenges and creates a unique dynamic; however, Lansing has been accepted by her peers as an instructor.

“The dances so far are so much fun and have so much energy all thanks to Ebet,” sophomore Bea Porges said. “She always asks me for feedback and really listens to us for our opinions on the dances.”

Olson also stresses the importance of having a passion for dance as a high school performer working with a peer choreographer.

“I found it incredibly rewarding to work with students who cared [about dancing],” Olson said. “To me, a kid with two left feet who actually wanted to learn was better than a kid who could dance but didn’t want to be there.”

As an experienced dancer, Lansing has had to learn how to choreograph for mostly new dancers.

“I plan the dances in advance, but if I get to class and something’s not working out, I can just change it and improvise new choreography,” Lansing said. “I thought it would be really hard, but [the students] make it so easy and give me feedback immediately.”

Olson also had to adapt the original choreography to a high school performance and cater to the abilities of her cast.

“At Grady, I developed my choreography based on the skill set of my peers,” Olson said. “As I progressed, I began to be more familiar with what they were capable of and who was capable of more.”

Alex Wolfe, a 2014 graduate, choreographed musicals such as “Thoroughly Modern Millie” and “Rent” during her time as a Grady student.

“Musical theater is a really fun style to choreograph for because the music really lends itself to dance,” Wolfe said. “Also, it can be really fun to work with your friends and to know that your school and classmates will get to see the work you are putting in.”

While choreographing a show as iconic as “Grease,” Lansing learned to creatively produce the dance numbers keeping the original in mind while incorporating up-to-date elements for her classmates as well. She has looked to “Grease: Live,” a popular production of “Grease” that premiered on the Fox television network in January 2016, for inspiration.

“‘Grease: Live’ had such a good sense of modernizing the classic sense of the musical,” Lansing said. “I try to change the dance moves and make them more modern as much as I can without changing the iconic style.”

Giving student choreographers this leadership position majorly influences them artistically. Wolfe continues to choreograph performances as a student at Vanderbilt University.

“[Student choreographing] allowed me to see my creative vision for a dance play out in real life while also allowing me to practice the craft and hone my skills,” Wolfe said. “Grady’s theater department does a great job of giving lots of opportunities to students, whether it’s through directing, running tech, or choreographing, and I think that’s really important.”

DANCING THROUGH SCHOOL: Junior Ebet Lansing instructs students in the Musical Theater II class  for the upcoming performance of “Grease.” Lansing has taken on the role of choreography for the production.
DANCING THROUGH SCHOOL: Junior Ebet Lansing instructs students in the Musical Theater II class for the upcoming performance of “Grease.” Lansing has taken on the role of choreography for the production.
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