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Persistence: studio celebrates girlhood with dance performances

Jun 28, 2018 09:44AM ● Published by Holly Vasic

Still shot from the Claudette Colvin piece. (Courtesy Arianna Mevs)

By Holly Vasic | h.vasic@mycityjournals.com

The Dance Box Studio presented “She Persisted: A Community Celebration of Girlhood” on June 1 and 2 to honor and celebrate women and girls who have changed history with their bravery, selflessness and sense of community. These themes were explored and expressed throughout the performance, which was choreographed with the help of Holladay dancers, ages 2–15, and included spoken word as well as creative movement.

The show was based on the book “She Persisted: 13 Women Who Changed the World,” written by Chelsea Clinton and illustrated by Alexandra Boiger. Dance Box Director Arianna Mevs challenged the dancers to come up with different ideas for the pieces based on the women from the book. “These kids are so smart and have a lot to say,” Mevs said. “They have good ideas and as an adult I think it’s a shame when we don’t let them participate and we just speak at them.”

Claudette Colvin not giving her seat up on a bus in the mid-1950s is one of the stories they choreographed a dance to. Ten-year-old Vivian Conlon, 10-year-old Adelaide James and 11-year-old Addie Blodgett participated in the choreography collaboration of that piece. “I learned the most about it because she was almost our age and the other ones are like adults,” Addie said about Colvin. The dance was very robotic; Mevs explained they wanted to show conforming, non-questioning and common gestures, except for the performer playing Colvin, who moved organically. “Her account’s really cool because she had watched these grown-ups and everyone else had conformed to these ideas to be lesser than,” Mevs said.

“I wonder if she thought about changing the course of history as she sat in that seat, or if she just wanted a really good seat?” Adelaide said.

Each dance had a narration before and ended with the girls stating the value assigned to each dance with a movement to represent that characteristic, connecting the visual with the words not only for the audience but also for the dancers. “Their brain is sending a message to their body, their body is sending a message to their brain,” Mevs said. “It’s just one message within the million messages they’ll hear in their lives, but I hope it sticks.”

Adelaide already feels like it has. At her recent violin concert the themes encouraged her, helping her feel brave, “and that little motion really helped,” she said.

The Dance Box girls were not only able to take a lot from the experience, but they were also able to notice values they had in common with the “She Persisted” women and girls. As a dance group they lift each other up. “Dance class is kind of another bubble of friends,” Adelaide said. Their class ranges from grades fourth to eighth so they have a variety of ages. “It’s super cool to just be with the older kids and look up to them,” Vivian said.

This performance has given these girls a chance to continue taking the values of bravery, selflessness and community into their lives and to remember the stories of these historical figures who stood up for girls everywhere as they, themselves, persist.

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