Putting a ‘Novel’ spin on stories

By Laura Mortkowitz

Egyptians swing-dancing to Shakira will take the stage tonight in the Yvonne Theater. As odd as this might sound, it’s just one of the performances in A Novel Idea, Alpha Psi Omega’s sixth annual spring dance production.

The show is completely student-run, from the directors and choreographers to the technical work backstage. The three directors and a number of cast members all helped choreograph the dances. The theme of the show revolves around stories and fables through time.

“The show is a storybook of different histories and fairy tales that are popular, or at least well-known,” said junior Colleen Kelly, one of the show’s directors. “It’s the most different concept from previous years. There’s more of a tale in each dance and it might be more identifiable to the audience.”

Audience members will recognize the stories of King Arthur, Cleopatra and John F. Kennedy, while others might not be as obvious. They vary between humorously short, like the interlude of Aladdin, to emotional, like the outbreak of AIDS.

The choreographers have put interesting spins on some stories. For example, don’t expect Billy the Kid to fight only with guns. They have found a much more fun way for the outlaw to do battle.

Some of the dances will be set to instrumental music, while others will be set to popular music, like The Clash’s “I Fought the Law” and The Hush Sound’s “Don’t Wake Me Up.” Some of the music will be played live on guitar by freshman Mike Ferrara, who will also serve as the storyteller. He will begin the performance by opening a book and will end the show by closing the book.

“It’s storytelling through dance as opposed to just dancing,” said Kelly.

For sophomore Kim Vogel, the choreographer for the swing-dancing Egyptians, it is her second time choreographing and her second swing dance routine.

“This year [the dance] is more difficult but has less people,” said Vogel. “Some moves had to be done by dance majors only. We really had to work on the characterization because that’s what really sells it. There are certain moves that people will be able to say, ‘Oh, that’s Egypt!’”

Senior Danielle Nolen, another student director, has choreographed many shows before, but never one quite like this year’s, where a story needs to be told with the dancing.

“This is my first real experience choreographing and directing for this theater/dance type of show,” she said. “There are so many dances this year that are really amazing.”

Since the show is student-run, there were no professors or advisers to take the wheel. The show depends on the experience and trust of the students performing. Yet, everyone has worked well together, said Nolen.

“Sometimes it’s hard for people our age to trust that we have the experience,” said Nolen. “Not only do we want to gain experience, but we want to share it with them.”

The dancers have had plenty of time to build trust with each other since auditions were held in December before winter break, and rehearsals have been taking place throughout the spring semester.

“Everybody has worked so hard,” said Kelly. “Time, energy and dedication, that’s what the cast and directors have put into it. Countless hours. Literally, blood, sweat and tears.”

Kelly wasn’t exaggerating about how hard the cast practiced. When one female dancer was dropped to the stage during a lift, she simply laughed and walked it off.

“It’s really fun, but we have worked really hard,” said Kelly.

A Novel Idea will be performed tonight and tomorrow night. Both shows begin at 8 p.m. in the Yvonne Theater.

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