Now is the ‘Time to Dance’

It has been almost an entire year of experiencing a new normal, and the world as we know it has changed. However, at MoCo Arts, the faculty, staff, board and families have done everything to make sure the arts and arts education continues to be provided in the Monadnock Region. This includes throughout the fall, when MoCo produced six online recorded theatre and young arts performances.

When looking at the options of producing their bi-annual production of “The Nutcracker,” it was impossible to produce the show with a full cast due to guidelines and protocols put in place. MoCo includes every single student who wishes to perform, and unfortunately, a cast of over 170 students and adults was not possible. The arts organization instead decided to move up its annual production of “Time to Dance” with a filmed performance.

This will be the 17th year performing this annual gem. But this year will be a little different from usual. Time to Dance features 14 energetic and unique pieces students have been working on (while socially distanced) since September, featuring original choreography from five MoCo Arts dance faculty members. This year’s show was pre-recorded at Redfern Arts Center at Keene State College and has been released online, for on-demand viewing. Audiences will experience the joy of dance through this diverse and exciting performance.

“This year is unlike any year we have had before, and we could not be happier to see the students perform on stage at the Redfern again,” said Reagan Messer, executive director and artistic director of Dance at MoCo. “With social distancing and our safety protocols in place, it has pushed us all to create and produce a dance show in a new and alternative way. This has driven us all artistically to broaden our imaginations on how to space and create choreography. It has been inspiring to watch.”

Time to Dance features ballet, hip hop, jazz, modern and tap dance, and brings the audiences on an emotional journey. With storytelling and music ranging from Gershwin and Rachmaninoff, to Janet Jackson and Florence + The Machine, this performance is diverse and has something for everyone. Each instructor has carefully choreographed their pieces to make sure their intentions still come across to the audience, all while students maintain social distancing guidelines.

Claire Jones, a senior in the dance program at MoCo Arts, is looking forward to the show.

“I’m really excited to be back on stage and performing again,” she said. “It’s been over a year since we’ve been able to be on stage, and I’m looking forward to being with friends and doing something that I love to do. I’ve missed being able to put on a costume and makeup and have fun under the lights. The pieces that I’m in are creative and definitely have an emotional release, which has been great to experience during this time.”

MoCo Arts is finding new ways to make sure young people are still receiving an education in the arts by continuing to provide safe opportunities for dance and theater students to take part in several performances throughout the year. MoCo believes performance is an important part of the educational process and the result of hard work over the course of the semester. This is one of the many things that sets MoCo apart from others — focusing on interpreting a story through dance.

Dance students in grades 2 through 12 can participate in MoCo’s Annual Spring Dance Show each year, which will also be taking on a new format. This year, the spring dance show will be split into multiple different performances, with “MoCo Goes Hollywood,” featuring the dance faculty’s interpretations of hit songs from famous dance movies. With restricted guidelines and safety protocols in place, these shows will allow small in-person audiences and will also be live streamed. Every student who wishes to perform will be in the production.

Theater students at MoCo Arts also have opportunities to partake in age-appropriate musical theater or straight theater, as well as improvisation workshops for those in grades 6 to 12. This spring, MoCo will feature theater performances of virtual shows such as “Virtually Ever After” and “Help Desk,” or in MoCo’s studios with “Honk Jr.,” “Quimby’s Great Cape Caper” and “The Spongebob Musical.”

Younger students, age 3 through 2nd grade, can take part in MoCo’s creative dance classes that culminate in a themed Creative Dance Festival at the end of the semester in June. Children can audition to be cast in MoCo’s “Storytime Theatre” musical performance, featuring acting, dancing, costumes and sets. Toddler/adult dance classes introduce children as young as 18 months to the joys of embracing their own creative ways of moving. MoCo Arts also provides themed vacation camps for children ages 4 through grade 6 and are the perfect way to grow in the arts during school vacation weeks.

A tuition assistance program helps guarantee that every child who wants to learn and grow in the arts is able to do so. More information about MoCo and its mission to “transform lives through movement and creative expression” is available online at moco.org.

The pre-recorded Time to Dance performance this year is sponsored in part by Connection. Tickets are $40 to rent per household, and $45 to buy and download via Vimeo On Demand. You can purchase tickets online at vimeo.com/ondemand/timetodance. For more information, call (603) 357-2100 or email info@moco.org.

Becca Mansfield is the marketing and communications manager for MoCo Arts.