Sunday, August 9, 2020
Footlight Dance Pays Homage to Rituals of Sandhill Cranes, Other Birds
Dakota Barth, Sam White and Sydney Herold show their dance moves on Hailey’s Bow Bridge.
Thursday, January 23, 2020



Cintia Scola Quecada can’t help but be mesmerized by the dance of the sandhill crane as they cavort in the farm fields south of Bellevue.

“They jump in the air, trying to get higher and higher to get the female’s attention. It is so much fun to watch them,” she said.

The dance tour will feature 16 dancers.

Some of the photographs Quecada has taken of cranes and other birds caught the eye of Hilarie Neely when she was planning Footlight Dance Company’s annual School Dance Education Tour. And Neely will include those photographs in this year’s show—a show that has been dubbed “Idaho Bird Migration.”

“We’re matching different birds with different dance forms,” said Neely. “For instance, I choreographed a ballet piece using sandhill cranes as inspiration. They not only have one of the most identifiable, beautiful mating dances but they have long legs and ballet dancers elongate their legs as they stand on pointe.”

Footlight Dance Company dancers will make their annual migration through Blaine County schools in a 10-show tour that kicks off on Friday, Jan. 24, and runs through Thursday, Feb. 13. This year there will be a special free community show at 10 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 5, at the Wood River High School Performing Arts Theater on the Community Campus in Hailey.

Of course, the public is invited to attend any of the school performances, provided they check in with the school office.

Britta Heaphy flies through the air in the Draper Preserve west of Hailey.

The educational show, which will be presented to those in kindergarten through 12th grade, will use ballet, modern, jazz hip hop and tap dance to represent bird migration in the Wood River Valley and Idaho.

Neely became interested in birds while attending a Terry Tempest Williams’ lecture on the Great Basin presented by the Sun Valley Center for the Arts. She listened as Williams told how birds are being affected by climate change. Then she became further immersed in the subject while reading Williams’ book, “Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place.”

“I talked with local birders Poo Wright-Pulliam, Larry Barnes and Alex LaChance and I learned how the Wood River Land Trust has been trying to save the new (Simon-Bauers) preserve in Croy Canyon, which is a major songbird sanctuary for birds migrating through Idaho,” she said. “And I learned how the Land Trust is partnering with the Nature Conservancy and other organizations to try to identify the yellow-billed cuckoo, which is endangered.”

Neely and her fellow dance teachers choreographed a modern dance inspired by the blue heron, a hip-hop piece inspired by the eagle, a jazz number representing the Swainson’s hawk and a tap piece paying homage to the hummingbird for the tour.

“With the hummingbird’s rapid wind movement and heartbeat, that’ll be a pretty energetic number for sure,” she said.

The dances will be paired with images taken by Quecada in the wetlands of the Camas Prairie near Fairfield and throughout the Wood River Valley.

“I’m an amateur photographer who loves taking pictures of nature and I’m delighted that someone found my bird pictures so very useful,” said Quecada. “It’s a bit of luck to be in the right place at the right time to get the pictures, and it also helps to know a little about their habits. I would invite anyone to go to south Bellevue to watch the sandhill cranes dancing during the months of October and September and April and May.”

Sixteen dancers who attend Wood River High School, Sun Valley Community School and Sage School will take part in the tour, which Neely has likened to a professional tour in its demands and intensity. Seniors Murphy Kendall, Shea Slanetz and Sam White will be participating in their final year of performances.

Meanwhile, the Wood River Land Trust is collaborating with Footlight Dance to help students become more involved in bird projects the Land Trust is undertaking.

“We want these performances to inspire and initiate discussions on our bird population that migrates through Idaho,” said Footlight Dance Director Hilarie Neely. “We everyone to become more aware of the birds we have here, what we can do to help them survive and find ways to engage in the future of our valley bird population.”

The schedule:

Friday, Jan. 24, 9:30 a.m.—Alturas School

Monday, Jan. 27, 1;15 p.m.--Hailey Elementary School

Friday, Jan. 31, 8:30 a.m.—Hemingway STEAM School

Friday, Jan. 31, 1:20 p.m.—Bellevue Elementary School

Wednesday, Feb. 5, 10 a.m.—Public performance at Wood River High School Performing Arts Theater at the Community Campus; will include students from Sage School, Silver Creek High School, Syringa Mountain School and Montessori School

Thursday, Feb. 6, 10:15 a.m.--Wood River High School at WRHS Performing Arts Theater

Friday, Feb. 7, 2:30 p.m.—Wood River Middle School

Monday, Feb. 10, 9:30 a.m.—Carey School

Thursday, Feb. 13, 10:45 a.m.—Sun Valley Community School


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