Jina Yelton Motts, owner and director of Motion Dance Studio, needed a recital theme that would work for her students from not one, but two locations, in Cornelius and Concord, North Carolina. She found a winner with “A Little Bit Country, A Little Bit Rock ’n’ Roll.” Motts was able to cover everything from hip hop and tap to lyrical and acro-gym, featuring dancers ages 8 to 18. (Her younger students and ballet classes performed in separate shows.)
Costs were kept under $3,000 with the help of volunteers, who built 10-foot-high cowboy boots, guitars and musical notes, as well as bales of hay and scarecrows. “This year, especially, we had to cut costs,” says teacher Angel Wilkes. “I had our studio’s name airbrushed on T-shirts for hip-hop numbers as an alternative to pricier options.” Read on for details on several of Motts’ numbers.
n Song: “She’s a Butterfly,” by Martina McBride
n Genre/Level: lyrical; intermediate to advanced
This number had an ethereal aesthetic, with dancers partnering to the country ballad. They completed complicated formation changes and a variety of turns including arabesques, chaînés and pirouettes. Motts suggests subdued lighting in blues and reds and even using a fog machine for dramatic effect.
n Song: “School’s Out,” by Alice Cooper; “Lip Gloss” and “G-Slide,” by Lil Mama; “Playground,” by Another Bad Creation
n Genre/Level: hip hop and acro-gym; intermediate (at least one year of tumbling)
“Hip hop and rock go well together!” says Wilkes of the rock-hop medley that opened with a school bell ringing and dancers erupting into a flurry of walkovers, cartwheels, roundoffs, rolls and toe touches. For hip-hop transitions, try Wilkes’ favorite, “basketballs” (just imagine bouncing an invisible basketball).
n Song: “Short Shorts,” by The Royal Teens; “Dazzey Duks,” by Duice
n Genre/Level: jazz and hip hop; intermediate to advanced (competition group); 8- to 9-year-olds and 11- to 12-year-olds
This medley allowed two classes to dance together. The group, costumed as cowgirls in denim boy shorts, gingham shirts and bandanas, evoked sassiness and Southern charm, combining pas de bourrées, jazz pirouettes and grand jetés with toe touches, locks, pops and kicks. The number ended with all the dancers lunging, posing and lifting each other onto their shoulders.
n Song: “Elevator,” by Flo Rida; “(You Drive Me) Crazy,” by Britney Spears; “Bring it Back,” by Jae Millz
n Genre/Level: hip hop; advanced (12- to 18-year-olds)
This rock-heavy number opened with dancers wearing “straitjackets” as they crawled, rolled and clawed across the stage, imitating escapees from a psych ward. (Wilkes made the costumes by cutting collars off men’s button-down shirts and fastening the sleeves with Velcro.) As dancers convulsed their jackets off, they transitioned into the next song.
n Song: “Old Time Rock ’n’ Roll,” by Medicine Hat
n Genre/Level: tap; beginner (7- to 8-year-olds)
Motts chose this song because it’s light and fun. It also helps beginning tappers find the downbeat needed to smoothly perform basic steps, such as flap ball changes, traveling time steps and maxi-fords, as well as patterns like diagonal lines, circles and two-by-twos.
n Song: “Me and My Gang,” by Rascal Flatts
n Genre/Level: jazz; 14- to 15-year-olds (“junior elite”)
Dancers wore sequined tops, studded pants and pink cowboy hats as they entered from opposite sides of the stage and made use of a prop box decorated with a bridle and saddle. They climbed on and off it during various intervals to transition into fouetté turns, slides and lots of leaps. The twangy country song has an electronic rocker edge that spices up jazz routines perfectly.
n Song: “Beautiful Goodbye,” by Jennifer Hanson
n Genre/Level: modern/lyrical; advanced
This number was choreographed and performed by two alumni and best friends who still take technique class and teach at the studios. Their dance used extensions and balances, complementary leaps, turns and weight-sharing work to tell the song’s story of friendship. DT
Lee Erica Elder is a writer in New York City.