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Footlight Dance Center Dancers Spotlight Endangered Species
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Seniors Piper Kolb, Bridgette Silva and Hazel Ludwig portray Monarch butterflies when Footlight Dance Company goes on tour.
   
Monday, January 23, 2023
 

STORY BY KAREN BOSSICK

PHOTOS BY THOMAS SMILEY PHOTOGRAPHY

Look for an endangered Bruneau hot springsnail to dance its way across the stage when Footlight Dance Company presents a performance titled “Endangered Species.”

Seventeen dancers will put the spotlight on endangered species as they stage performances for Blaine County School District students at the Wood River High School Performing Arts Theater and for Sun Valley Community School students at the Community School through Jan. 31.

 
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Dancers will call attention to the plight of endangered and threatened species in this year’s performances.
 

The 2:45 p.m. performance on Wednesday, Jan. 25, at the WRHS Performing Arts Theater on the Community Campus is open to the public.

“When I mentioned to the dancers that we’d have a surprise for the audience with a snail coming across the stage, they looked at me horrified. Belly dancing snails? ‘Just wait,’ I told them. ‘I think you’ll be very pleased,’ ” said Hilarie Neely, the founder and director of Footlight Dance Company.

Neely was inspired to do a program calling attention to species that are endangered or threatened after reading articles about such species in National Geographic this past summer.

“With all the discussion about climate change and habitat loss these articles, sparked my interest in finding out more, especially after all the conversation locally about how the grey wolf was no longer endangered because its recovery has been so successful,” she said.

 
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Senior Bridgette Silva is among the 17 dancers that will perform through Jan. 31.
 

There are more than 1,300 species listed as endangered or threatened in the United States under the Endangered Species Act.

Footlight Dance will use some costuming to help interpret the species. Dancers will perform animal-like moves, even as they perform ballet, modern, jazz, tap and hip-hop dances. And audiences can expect a few monarch butterflies to flitter across the stage.

“We’ll talk about the loss of habitat within the geothermal areas where the Bruneau hot Springsnail live. Since the grey wolf is now off the endangered list, we’ll look at the red wolf, which is endangered on the East Coast. And, of course, monarch butterflies’ numbers are dropping because some of their migratory routes through the United States down through Mexico and Central America are endangered,” Neely said.

The annual Footlight Dance on Tour gives dancers the chance to assume the life of a touring professional while still maintaining their class load at school. The dance studio has provided the annual school enrichment performances for 30 years, but this is the first one since COVID.

“It’s going to be exciting for the kids to dance in front of live audiences. There have not been that many opportunities for them to do that the past couple of years,” Neely said.

The dancers, from Wood River High School and the Sun Valley Community School, include seniors Georgia Geagan, Ava Knowles, Piper Kolb, Hazel Ludwig, Lilia Page and Bridgette Silva. They and their fellow dancers train as athletes, taking as many as six technique classes a week and Pilates Conditioning.

They rehearse for six weeks prior to the performances, ensuring pre-professional performance level.

The WRHS Performing Arts Theater will give them a chance to perform in a theatrical experience with professional lighting, rather than in gyms where they formerly performed most of their performances.

Neely said she hopes that the performances will offer students a different way of looking at the issue of  endangered species.

“We ask ourselves: How can we approach subject matter in different ways to help students comprehend with their differing learning styles? The arts are another avenue to explore our world, our community and understand each other as humans,” she said.

“As dance artists, we bring a responsibility for making the world a more livable and beautiful place by sharing our emotions through the use of our body,” she added. “Our hearts are brought directly to our audiences with our passion for life and the beauty of moving bodies completely visible on the stage.  If our performance is only half-hearted the audience will feel this. If it is full, you will feel the presence and the allowance of coming together.”

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