Laguna Beach dance students turn poetry into motion – Orange County Register

Dancers typically begin a sequence of movement by counting 5-6-7-8 to mark the tempo and phrase of the music, but what if there was no music? What if the familiar rhythm and melody of a song were replaced instead by spoken words?

For the beginning/intermediate Dance 1 class at Laguna Beach High School, these questions were answered as the dancers prepared movement to accompany a student-written poem.

“It was a bit daunting because in order to dance with a poem, we sort of had to forget what we know about dance when it comes to keeping in time with the music,” said sophomore Gabriela de Moraes. “There are moments when the choreography matches up with specific words, but for the most part we have to create our own flow and tempo.”

The poem, written by seniors Bayley Thomas and Ryane Zipstein, was originally composed to help the Laguna Beach Unified School District’s SchoolPower foundation raise money for new staff positions that will focus on supporting students’ emotional and mental well-being. The text of the poem was meant to attract donors as it illustrates the stress, anxiety and more serious mental health issues that students experience.

Zipstein, who also performed the poem, explained her view on this need for support.

“I know being a student doesn’t sound like the most stressful situation in the world, but at this point in our lives, the stress is the most we’ve ever handled. I think about the ratio of pressure to our age, and sometimes we’re not equipped,” said Zipstein. “The angsty teen stereotype is really prevalent, but I don’t think that makes it any less serious.”

Thomas and Zipstein’s spoken word was used in a video that was screened at SchoolPower’s 32nd annual Dinner Dance on February 11 and helped generate more than $158,000 in donations for the Student Well-Being Initiative.

Because the poem was so well-received, Thomas and Zipstein’s drama director passed the original version of it on to dance director Estee Carrizosa, who was looking for opportunities to collaborate with students of other arts…

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