Over the last few years I’ve been trying to cover the different choices campers can make for their four Term Camp activities (most of which are also offered at Mini Camp). Only I usually have so much other news that I’m eager to share, that I haven’t covered as many activities as I would like…so far!
But I’m going to take another stab at it now and at least blog on our dance and drama activities within the next week. (Hopefully more, soon after that.)
In the meantime you can read a few other entries in this series:
And a one and a two and a one, two, three, four
As a camper, Dance and Drama were two of my personal staple activities at camp — I just loved them and had to participate. (My other two were Rifle and Canoeing.)
What I loved about Dance and Drama was performing for camp. The rehearsal process, perfecting our numbers and developing my lines — all that was a welcome and engaging challenge. It was also fun! And once it was showtime, I reveled in the theatrical magic and then felt really confident and proud after the shows.
I see the same spirit in the girls who take these activities today.
And it’s definitely a “no experience necessary” situation.
In my case, I was a dancer at home, but it was limited to classical ballet which, as you may know, is very strict in its training. But at camp I was able to experience different dance styles and, in the non-ballet pieces (there was some ballet, just not exclusively ballet), I enjoyed getting to move in new, looser ways, and in themes that aren’t typical of the ballet genre.
Once I became a counselor I taught all four of my favorite activities at some point, but eventually ended up teaching dance all day and ultimately become the Head of Dance in 1999.
Dance at camp today
We divide the activity periods by age group. The dance staff teaches everyone the same dance in the beginning of the term, and then separates the campers into small groups, with each group having 1-2 dance counselors assigned to them.
The campers and counselors choose a song and work together to choreograph a dance for the end-of-term Dance Show, which is always themed in some unique way.
Dancers share another thing beyond their moves — they keep the theme under wraps, keeping it a surprise until the night of the show. Everyone — dancers and audience — love the energy of suspense around the dance show and you can really feel the anticipation build that entire day when it’s Dance Show night!
In more recent years, the theme has been different for 1st and 2nd term, giving full-term campers an opportunity to really stretch their dance repertoire over the whole summer season.
One thing that has changed over time (since my day as Head of Dance), but that we’re going to change back to the “old way” this year, is the Upstart Dance. Over time it has evolved into a huge finale dance for ALL the Upstarts who are taking dance. In recent years, this finale has been another theme (such as a Lady Gaga medly, or songs and choreography from the 1920s, etc).
The Upstarts are organized into small groups, as well as large groups, for a ten-minutes-long piece with the groups switching in and out. It’s really been quite a to-do!
Back in my day (I hate sounding like that!) the Upstarts were simply divided into small groups like the other age groups, performing with all campers taking dance, and not into something entirely their own.
This year we’re going back to the simpler way of doing it, for several reasons.
Dance can already have a lot of pressure, because some girls come in with a lot of previous experience, and other girls are eager to try dance out for the first time. Also, Heads of Dance and Dance counselors are putting their best feet forward to craft an exciting Dance Show.
But with only three weeks, and elements like warm-ups, cool downs, explanations, practice, and refinement to take place, time can seem to dwindle in the wink of an eye, making for a real crunch, something that always seems present in putting up a show.
So for the sake of simplicity and easing the stress, we’re looking to bring this section of the Upstart performance in line with the other age groups.
We want dance to be fun and engaging for all the girls, and feel that part of the camp experience is to back off from the stress and push of the school year, so that girls can find different aspects to their skills and processes during the summer. When we push too hard, the talent is compromised a bit — trying to fit 20-30 dancers on stage at one time means that many can’t be seen, and everyone feels constricted in their ability to move their bodies to the full range without risking elbowing a stage-mate on accident!
Visually it can also get messy with so many dancers.
We want to model clear and distinct choreography and give the audience a place to rest their eyes for the best dance storytelling. For that, less is often more! 🙂
We think dance counselors, dancers, and the audience will so much more enjoy everything about dance when the girls get to do just that — dance, fully, with space and time to execute their moves in freedom, all while having enough quality studio time over the term or summer to really learn their dance moves well while keeping their bodies properly stretched and released before and after the daily session.
All dolled up
One fun aspect of the program that will remain the same is choosing costumes and learning how to do hair for performances. Though not everyone wears make-up, there are opportunities to learn a little bit about what stage make-up is and how to do some for performances.
Camp performance costumes are always simple, which I love! Groups work together to come up with easy costuming ideas that can still lend a dramatic or distinct mood to the dance. For example, one might say, “Let’s all wear black and white shorts with different neon-colored shirts” or something like that. Another group might decide that pigtails reflect the mood of their song and dance. I always enjoyed that aspect of preparing for the show (as both a camper and a dance counselor). It’s playing dress up for a reason — for the performance!
We’re excited that recently we’ve had a new speaker system in the Play Hall. It’s been great — nice loud speakers with clear sound. And what’s great for our Dance staff is that they can hook iPods right up to the system, making it easy to bring all kinds of dance sounds to the season. It also has a microphone so the dance counselors can speak and actually be heard!
The Dance Show is one of the most favorite nights of the term! There’s lots of energy, fun, and everyone enjoys watching. I’m sure dance will be just as popular this year as it has been for so many other years.
Mini Camp is only for one week, so while we still offer dance, everything is condensed and shorter.
The Mini Camp dance show is a part of the last night of camp, a celebratory campfire called The Show of Shows (which also includes Drama).
The dancers spend 5-6 days choreographing a dance, just like for Term Camp. The difference is that the Mini Camp Show of Shows takes place around the campfire, instead of in the Play Hall. This lends an air of magic to the night, and keeps the performance from being too pressure-filled or intimidating for the youngest of our campers.
We try to keep Mini Camp as authentic as possible, so they have similar costumes and props and simple ways to make the show a special and distinct part of camp. It’s so dear to see the Mini Campers really blossom in their performance roles — I love it!
And so do parents.
Parents can come see the Term Camp Dance Shows. Maybe you’ll want to book that discounted Camp Alleghany rate with our partners at The Greenbrier and enjoy a night in the area, catching a show with us and enjoying Lewisburg or other places until pick-up time.
–Elizabeth Dawson Shreckhise, Assistant Director, Camp Alleghany for Girls