SILER CITY – Official dance instruction returned to Jordan-Matthews High School for the first time in decades with a two-day workshop that kicked off production of the Broadway musical, “Oklahoma ! “, next school year.
The six-hour stage dance workshop in mid-May was hosted by JMArts, the Jordan-Matthews Arts Foundation, thanks to a Grassroots grant awarded last fall by the Chatham Arts Council. He taught dance terminology and basic steps, helped students understand what to expect at a dance audition, and allowed performers to work on a choreography for the upcoming theater production.
“For most of our students it was a real challenge,” said JMArts president Rose Pate, who created the workshop. “Only a few have already taken dance lessons. But it was great to see their enthusiasm and pleasure in learning something new, and I’m extremely proud of how hard they worked. And this dance is going to be a moment to remember in our production of ‘Oklahoma!’ Next year.”
Over a dozen students participated in the free workshop. They filled the auditorium stage on two Monday afternoons, slowly starting with stretches before moving on to more rigorous stages introduced by workshop instructor Peggy Taphorn, who is in her 14th season as a artistic director of production at the Temple Theater in Sanford.
It was a rare opportunity for young actors to work with someone like Taphorn, who has directed, choreographed and performed across the world, including numerous productions on Broadway, in London’s West End, and on tour in the States. United, Canada, South America and Asia.
After learning a few basic steps, the pace picked up and attention shifted to the choreography of “Kansas City,” a well-known number from the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical.
Sometimes Taphorn methodically walked through segments of the dance with the whole group. At other times, she split the group in half and worked with each half separately. Every time she put the music on, things got almost frantic, with bodies moving around the stage and Taphorn’s voice dominating the score, keeping the beat with short words reminding the dancers of their techniques, turns and steps. .
Although she works with some of the most talented theater professionals in the world, Taphorn said it is also rewarding to teach beginning actors and dancers.
“It was very nice to work with such an engaged and fun group of young people in this class to learn this ballet dance,” she said. “We also talked about a life in the theater and the different opportunities on and behind the stage. Many skills learned in theater and the arts are transferable to 21st century learning, including learning to cooperate and think creatively.
Judging by the upbeat banter during the water breaks, the excitement on stage and the reactions after the workshop, it was a huge hit with the students – including junior Wendy Castillo Mejia, for whom it was all new. experience.
“It’s my first time doing anything with theater, but the kids in the theater seem to have it all together and have fun,” she said. “Even though it’s new, I feel good. I’m still trying to decide between working behind the scenes and auditioning for the show.
Sophomore Buck Thornton had a similar reaction to this flurry of activity to kick off production, “It’s a work in progress, but that’s what makes it fun,” he said. “This is my first time taking dance lessons and I can’t wait to learn more!
The Grassroots Grant Program which funded the dance workshop is made possible by individual contributions to the Chatham Arts Council General Operating Fund – and by the Grassroots Arts Program of the North Carolina Arts Council, a division of the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources , with funding from the National Endowment for the Arts.
More information about JMArts, including a calendar of upcoming artistic events and membership information, is available online at JMArts.org.