3 Recital Themes With Lots of Options

Hooray For Hollywood

“Everything was from a movie," says owner Dale Lam. “The backdrop was a Hollywood set."

  • Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory: Lam recycled Styrofoam lollipops from her Christmas show.
  • Alice in Wonderland: A big throne chair for the Queen of Hearts was an easy, flashy prop.
  • “We're All in This Together," from High School Musical: Boys wore band uniforms and girls wore dance team shorts and tops with pom-poms.
  • Blues Brothers: Lam remixed Motown songs, like “Respect" and “Think," and dressed her dancers in black suits with narrow ties, fedoras and sunglasses.


Use Poetry to Inspire

Tori Rogoski's dancers wrote their own poetry to be recorded for the show.

  • One dance was based on Shel Silverstein's popular book The Giving Tree. During rehearsal, Rogoski asked students what the book meant to them and how they could relate that to movement.
  • Another piece was inspired by a poem about an autistic child the students read. The dancers journaled about the poem and created movement from their journal entries.


Circus Capers

Danie Beck divided her recital into three acts: “Under the Big Top," “Our Mammoth Menagerie" and “A Sensational Sideshow." Though she used music from Barnum, Beck says clever, alliterative titles and costuming can make any music work for a theme. For example:

  • Acrobatic routine title: “Klever Klown Kapers."
  • For “A Beguiling Big Top Ballet," she used fanfare-sounding ballet music.
  • “High Wire Honeys" carried parasols as props.
  • “Rockin' Ringmasters" brought small rope whips onstage.

The Case for No Theme It can be frustrating to tie every single recital number into one overarching theme. “Stacey Tookey just choreographed a piece called She for us, all about human trafficking," says Joanne Chapman. “How can you incorporate that into a theme?" Instead, Chapman includes a themed production number at the end of her show. It's usually 10 minutes long and a medley of songs. Past favorite production-number themes include The Beatles, Despicable Me, Madagascar and prom. “This year, we're doing Trolls," she says. “We'll use the music from the movie but include other songs, like 'Whip My Hair.'"

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Despite worldwide theater closures, the Universal Ballet Competition is keeping The Nutcracker tradition alive in 2020 with an online international competition. The event culminates in a streamed, full-length video of The Virtual Nutcracker consisting of winning entries on December 19. The competition is calling on studios, as well as dancers of all ages and levels, to submit videos by November 29 to be considered.

"Nutcracker is a tradition that is ingrained in our hearts," says UBC co-founder Lissette Salgado-Lucas, a former dancer with Royal Winnipeg Ballet and Joffrey Ballet. "We danced it for so long as professionals, we can't wait to pass it along to dancers through this competition."

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Robbie Sweeny, courtesy Funsch

Christy Funsch's teaching career has taken her from New York City to the Bay Area to Portugal, with a stint in a punk band in between. But this fall—fresh off a Fulbright in Portugal at the Instituto Politécnico de Lisboa, School of Dance (ESD), teaching and researching empathetic embodiment through somatic dance training—Funsch's teaching has taken her to an entirely new location: Zoom. A visiting professor at Slippery Rock University for the 2020–21 academic year, Funsch is adapting her eclectic, boundary-pushing approach to her virtual classes.

Originally from central New York State, Funsch spent 20 years performing in the Bay Area, where she also started her own company, Funsch Dance Experience. "My choreographic work from that time is in the dance-theater experiential, fantasy realm of performance," she says. "I also started blending genres and a lot of urban styles found their way into my choreography."

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Courtesy Meg Brooker

As the presidential election approaches, it's a particularly meaningful time to remember that we are celebrating the centennial of the 19th Amendment, when women earned the right to vote after a decades-long battle.

Movement was more than a metaphor for the fight for women's suffrage—dancers played a real role, most notably Florence Fleming Noyes, who performed her riveting solo Dance of Freedom in 1914 to embody the struggle for women's rights.

This fall, Middle Tennessee State University director of dance Meg Brooker is reconstructing Dance of Freedom on 11 of her students. A Noyes Rhythm teacher and an Isadora Duncan scholar, Brooker is passionate about bringing historic dance practices into a contemporary context.

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