“Contrary to Popular Belief” Stretches Limits of Contemporary Dance


Three dancers perform in the annual Dance Company show.

Karalyn Kickham

Three dancers perform in the annual Dance Company show.
Three dancers perform in the annual Dance Company show.

LTC. Love. Trust. Commitment. The 35 members of the Walpole High School Dance Company projected their motto through their chemistry and unison in the Company’s captivating ninth annual show: Contrary to Popular Belief. After five months of intense preparation, the WHSDC performed ten original numbers on Thursday, March 27 and Friday, March 28 in the WHS auditorium.

Every year, Dance Company director Mr. Richard Kim puts on a show like no other, stretching the limits of contemporary dance. This year’s production was no exception, as the Company performed an emotional show with themes ranging from cultural holidays to self-acceptance, with elaborate props, sets, costumes and makeup to help bring the show to life.  The variety of music styles and emotions expressed in each number kept audience members captivated at all times, not wanting any single number to conclude, yet eager to see what was to come. Senior Gabriela Dwyer said, “The dances were really creative and I was always looking forward to the next dance. At the end of the show I still wanted to see more.”

Contrary to Popular Belief began with “Metamorphosis I: Kafka,” which featured high jumps off of ramps and ended with one dancer getting trapped under a sheet, kicking to try to free herself.  Although this ending gave off an eerie vibe, the opening number illustrated the beginning of the girls’ transformations, which were to be continued in the opening number of Act II. Of “Metamorphosis I: Kafka,” Kim said, “I think as a dance piece, it is a quintessential “WHSDC” piece. It is unusual, changes perspective on what dance is, is unexpected, and has a lot of emotional value in it.”

A much more upbeat number, “A Very Good Place to Start” followed, with bright blue and green costumes and cheerful music from The Sound of Music.  This number highlighted turns from junior captain Rachel Graham, and was good comedic-relief after the first number, as the girls playfully acted out some of the lyrics to “Do Re Mi.” Next up was “Three Renditions,” which was danced to three different versions of the same song, “Summertime.”  The dancers had three different costumes, which clashed, but the outfits went along well with the mismatch of the different styles and tempos of the songs. “The Corridor” followed, featuring an impressive solo from senior Catherine Murphy.  With the curtains partially closed, the audience was not distracted by scenery and elaborate sets, so spectators were able to focus solely on the dancing.

Act I closed with an ensemble entitled “Dia De Los Muertos,” which depicted the Mexican holiday.  Half the dancers wore skeleton suits while the other half wore dresses with big black and white skirts that were fit for big, flowy movements.  All dancers had their faces painted like skeletons as they told the story of the celebrations and traditions of Dia De Los Muertos.  The ensemble ended with Head Choreographer senior Mary McAvoy and Head Captain senior Amanda Guidoboni slowly walking towards each other, touching hands for a moment, and then continuing on their way–a symbolic representation of the brief reunion of the deceased with the living for only one night.

Act II began with “Metamorphosis II: Gold,” a continuation of the opening number.  The dancers completed their symbolic transformations in this number, with orange and yellow flags acting as their wings.  Senior captain Jen Sullivan had impressive jumps and turns in this number.

By far the most amusing number in the whole show, “Frogs” began with McAvoy reading a poem about worms, and each of the other dancers on stage read her own portion of a poem.  When the music turned on, the dancers announced that this was their story, and danced a youthful routine full of innocence and energy.  The combination of the youthful music, crazy costumes, and humorous poetry made this number a popular one among the crowd. Sophomore Matt Moriarty said, “[Frogs] was really funny. It was definitely one of my favorites.” Following an interlude by Kid President about remembering one’s own awesomeness, “From Dust to Glitter” brought tears to several audience members’ eyes, as it began with a poem by Anis Mojgani with the message to “Shake the dust”–the girls literally hit a curtain covered in flour to give the illusion of shaking dust. The poem was essentially advice to brush off the small insecurities and be proud of oneself. McAvoy was highlighted in this number, as her solo showed her technique as well as her endurance.  At the end of the poem came P!nk’s “Glitter in the Air,” which expresses a message about confidence and self-acceptance.  With glitter, streamers, and a lot of energy, the dancers portrayed this important message. “Spiritual Dance” rendered a much darker vibe, as junior captain Emily Massarelli danced center stage with distinct, ominous movements, concluding with all the dancers dropping boxes on the floor to symbolize the explosion of the “ticking bomb” referenced in the music.

The closing ensemble, “Unrequited,” was arguably the most dynamic number of the entire production, thus embracing the overall dynamic nature of the show. Freshman Olivia Pratt had a solo in this closing number, showcasing her talent even as a freshman. Guidoboni was also featured in this number, as she performed a solo to “True Love Waits”. The ensemble moved from emotional to sassy as the tempo picked up and the girls danced to Britney Spears, but one of the most fascinating parts of the number was that it did not end with music; rather, the dancers ended their performance in silence, their movements accompanied only by the sound of their feet on the stage.

“Unrequited” encaptured the title of the show and expressed the most prominent message–Contrary to Popular Belief, dance is more than music and choreographed motion on a stage; dance can take place anywhere, to any sound (or no sound at all), with any form of movement. Kim said, “ I think one of the things we do at Dance Company is try to completely obliterate peoples’ expectations and assumptions about our Company as well as about dance in general and what it is “supposed” to be. With the title Contrary to Popular Belief, I hope we gave our audience a little better idea of what dance is and where Contemporary Dance is going or could go.” Kim and Assistant Director Ms. Maura Lia are known to put on great Dance Co shows, but for the Company, they perform for more than just the dancing and artistry. McAvoy said, “I love dancing as is, and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to express myself as a choreographer. However, the very best part about Dance Co is the girls. It is a true sisterhood.”

For the nine seniors of Dance Company, Contrary to Popular Belief closed out their WHSDC careers. With a large audience to watch them take their final bows, the seniors — choreographers Mary McAvoy, Katie Gillespie, and Melissa Walsh; captains Amanda Guidoboni and Jen Sullivan; and Olivia Stevens, Catherine Murphy, Victoria Martin, and Sariah Gomes–were happy with their performances and the choreography for this year’s show, which allowed them to express several different artistic sides.  Guidoboni said, “The shows were the exact way I wanted my last shows to be. This year basically the whole auditorium was filled. It is one of the best feelings in the world to look out and see tons of people there who want to see you and the rest of the dance company.”  Friday’s show drew a larger crowd than Thursday, almost filling the entire auditorium. Junior Kody McCann said, “[Thursday] was the first time I’ve ever seen a Dance Co show and it made me more excited to see the next dance.”

For the juniors, sophomores, and freshmen of Dance Company, the close of this season brings anticipation for next year’s big ten year anniversary. Mr. Kim already has ideas in mind, so audience members and alumni can expect recreations of a few of the 88 dances Kim has created in the past nine years, as well as new, original numbers. Kim said, “It’s kind of a fun challenge for myself because I keep freaking out about if I’ll ever run out of ideas, but I think it is a unique challenge to take older dances we have done and to re-do them as well as update them and improve them.” The title of the tenth annual WHSDC show will be Magnum Opus.