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SARATOGA — When “Empowered” graces the stage Dec. 16 and 17 at the West Valley College Theater, its producers can celebrate a mission accomplished. The show consists of nine original dances including ballet, modern, jazz and ballroom dance. Treasurer Marlon Chen and president Selina Chih, who cofounded Dance Theater at West Valley, sought to provide a venue for students to choreograph, produce and perform original works of art; nurture and share new sources of creativity with the broader community; and strengthen the bond between the various performing arts disciplines.

“My goal is always that the audience remembers me after the performance,” Chih said, “Our goal was to be able to present original works and have the show as the output of the club.”, Chih and Chen choreographed the show’s nine original numbers, and there are a few numbers by guest choreographers, The production took the pair down a pebble dance pointe shoe covers different path, one they hope will unify the dance and theater arts departments on campus, “The home base for students has always been the theater, with the focus on musicals in the spring,” Chih said, “This organization will really help students become a triple threat (and) act, sing and dance.”..

Chih considers dance her first language. “Theater is really more of a story-based production,” Chen said. “The difference really is that these dance shows give students an opportunity to choreograph and learn production. Each piece in this kind of show is more self-contained than they would be in a theater production.”. Chih is trained in ballet and modern dance and placed in competitions for both categories. Chen started dancing eight years ago. He took his first ballroom dancing class in the fall of 2008 and his first contemporary class the following spring.

Chen and Chih met at Mission College and moved to West Valley after some of Chen’s teachers left the school, “Ballet is very graceful, while modern dance can be wild and crazy and have a bit of a dark side,” Chih said, describing their piece “Incubus.”, “The choreography is much more mature with a deep, strong feeling,” Chih said, The pair has experienced success since becoming dance partners several years ago, Chih recalled a number the couple did pebble dance pointe shoe covers together in which Chen was the cellist and she was the cello he was playing, The dance’s French title translates to “love song” in English..

“It was beautiful. He picked me up like I was the instrument, and then at the end of the piece he sets me down when he’s done playing me,” Chih said. “At the end he carries me away.”. The pair recently placed in a Jack and Jill competition with a tango and samba number. Dance Theater at West Valley has 14 members, which the pair considers a great start for the club’s first semester. “We seem to have a good rapport with the student government on campus,” Chen said. “Hopefully, it comes down to more publicity and more participation for the club.”.

As the audience settled in at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, it was hard not to notice that there were more than a few feather boas being sported, Smuin Contemporary American Ballet’s “The Christmas Ballet” has become a holiday tradition with many Bay Area dance fans, who come ready to sing and clap along and catch falling “snow” during their favorite pieces, Now in its 22nd iteration, the family-friendly show consists of 30 or so short pieces danced to mostly familiar tunes, each with its own flavor, This year’s show is again a mix of old favorites and new gems, pebble dance pointe shoe covers with the bulk of the repertoire by the company founder, the late Michael Smuin..

The first half of the show, “Classical Christmas,” is a blend of ballet and contemporary movement accompanied by classical and traditional tunes. Standout numbers include “Noel Nouvelet” by choreographer-in-residence Amy Seiwert, a stunning duet full of effortless lifts and unexpected dismounts; and “Gratias (From Mass in C Minor)” by Smuin, a fluid trio in which Terez Dean was the equal of her two male partners in power and presence. Smuin builds its bench, each year including new works by emerging choreographers within the company. One of the new pieces this year comes from dancer Rex Wheeler, in his second season with Smuin. His piece, “We Three Kings,” suffered a little from a slippery floor on opening night in Mountain View, but was a lively and enjoyable number for three couples.

The pebble dance pointe shoe covers staging and costumes in the first half were elegant but simple, allowing for cohesiveness and a seamless flow between the dances, The lighting design by Michael Oesch beautifully complemented the feel of each piece, The second half of the program, “Cool Christmas,” is more light-hearted and humorous, choreographed in a variety of styles to seasonal standards and popular music, The centerpiece and perennial audience favorite is Smuin’s “Santa Baby,” set to the classic Eartha Kitt tune, starring Erica Felsch and a 42-foot feather boa, Felsch brough a subtle air of amused entitlement to the role as she was attended by her five fawning suitors..



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