Dancing into the Virtual Realm: January Dance Show


Haley Shiroma (12) helps to film “Why You Always Hatin?”, a hip-hop dance choreographed by Zoe Kono (12). Kono shared, “For me, getting used to what camera angles worked best and familiarizing myself with editing software was very challenging. I spent about eight hours total editing my solo and my group dance.” Photo courtesy of Zoe Kono (12).

Shrutika Ezhil, Staff Writer

   On Saturday night, January 9th, West High’s Dance Department streamed their first-ever virtual dance show on Vimeo. The Advanced and Intermediate Dance team came together to showcase their talent through 11 dances made through hours of virtual preparation and video editing.

     Every year, the Dance Department puts together two major shows in January and May. And despite the challenges of performing in quarantine, the January show went on.

  In preparation, Advanced Dance member and soloist Jasmine Tran (12) expressed, “The most challenging part of preparing for the show was finding motivation. It’s heartbreaking to not be able to perform on stage, where my home is. Because of this, I didn’t have much of a will to dance. I felt my passion and the dancer part of me fading away.”

   However, for others, like Intermediate dancer and choreographer Kristin Abrigo (11), the virtual realm became her motivation to choreograph: “Ever since everything went virtual, I wanted [to] find a way to make something that other dancers could enjoy dancing. This is also my first time choreographing for a show, and I wanted to take on a challenge to show how hard I’ve worked in dance from the past three years that I’ve been in the department.” 

   Nene Nakagomi (10), an Advanced dancer, shared some challenges that she faced as a performer: “Learning dance choreography through zoom was one of the challenges I faced…learning the choreography in a small space was a challenge.” According to Nakagomi, choreographers had to come up with creative ways to teach, such as wearing a sock and a glove so that the dancers could tell right from left. Still, learning dances was significantly harder.

   Zoe Kono (12) is one of two Artistic Directors who lead the Dance Department. Kono was also a soloist and choreographer for the January show. She explained how quarantine affected her dancing style and choreography: “I feel like we were forced to explore different ways to make our dances interesting… Having time alone at home gave me an opportunity to find my own style…Overall, choreographing during quarantine allowed me to get personal with myself.” Kono expressed how her solo was contemporary instead of hip-hop, a break from her usual style. She also explained how she took up every opportunity to choreograph this year since she regretted “missing the chance” to do so last year. 

   Nakagomi and Tran both noticed the difficulties of not being able to dance with their teammates. As a soloist, Tran mentioned that, “It felt weird not having the other members by my side while I was recording since I’m so used to performing with them.” Nakagomi noted that this separation forced choreographers and performers to see the dance through a different lens. One of the benefits of filming dances instead of performing them on stage was that they could be filmed from interesting angles and feature specific groups or solo parts. “We wanted to be more creative,” Nakagomi said. “This [made] the video more entertaining rather than just watching a video of dancers just dancing in one big space.

   By advertising through social media and the West High School newsletter, and creating a video trailer, January Show was able to capture many attendees. Saturday night’s show streamed at 7 p.m., and the Dance Department’s hard work was displayed beautifully. Watching the show delighted audiences, who were able to experience dances in a different setting while still getting the same quality as an in-person performance. Choreographers got creative, dancers tried new dance styles, and despite unprecedented challenges, the January show went on. 

If you’d like to watch the January Show, you can still check it out here!

The Dance Department was able to film their dances while still adhering to CDC guidelines for social distancing. Nene Nakagomi (10), an Advanced Dancer, wanted to make it clear that the dancers “wore masks and stayed apart from each other as much as we [could]. The choreographers worked really hard on scheduling the dancers on a specific time so there [wouldn’t] be so many dancers in one place, especially during this pandemic.” Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Richey (12).