The Joyce Willett Dance School in Austin sponsors Body Talk Dance Company. Once Upon a Time: Pure Imagination is the semi-annual showcase of its dance students from its studios in town. The web masthead of Body Talk states that it is a company for students ages six through eighteen who want to become professional dancers. Once Upon a Time: Pure Imagination, performed at the Manor High School Performing Arts Center, is a dance show incorporating large amounts of hip-hop, jazz, tap, ballet and sheer Broadway joy dancing. The audience was formed of several hundred friends and family of the young performers, but the show gave a strong and exciting evening of entertainment for general audiences.
The 22 pieces in Once Upon a Time: Pure Imagination were brought together from their classes in the Austin region. They were completed and adapted to fit the loose, non-linear story line. The basic concept of the dance is a broad mash-up of fairy tales and popular music, all of it having an accessible point—at the end of your dance odyssey, dear Dancer, finish high school. Then you will have something of sustaining value for everything else that life will surely bring. All parents must love this story line.
And the story begins with a student at home, laboring over difficult homework and daydreaming the fantasy life of dance. Then comes the magical transformation, our student becomes Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, and by the second number she is wearing the Ruby Slippers. Before returning home and dancing in a graduation finale, Dorothy performs fantastically with a huge cast of characters: all the characters from Wizard, plus Cinderella, Peter Pan, Tinkerbelle, Snow White, Little Red Riding Hood, Robin Hood, Rapunzel, Hansel, Gretel, The Big Bad Wolf, Mad Hatter, Queen of Hearts, and the Cheshire Cat. A large and thoroughly adorable ensemble of six-to-eight-year-olds played flowers, forest animals, and Nutcracker soldiers. Few touring Broadway shows boast casts this large.
All the dance pieces in the show were set to recorded popular music in the traditional fashion of dance classes. The music also gave the pieces their titles. The dancers on stage, especially the advanced high school dancers, clearly relished this opportunity to strut their stuff. Yet they also showed discipline and generous sharing of their time on stage with their fellow dancers. Every performer hit it hard, and by show’s end they had given us a memorable, high-energy work of dance art. High points must certainly include “True Love’s Kiss,” “Tea Party,” “Thriller/Head Will Roll,” “Hit the Ground Running,” and “A Little Party Never Killed Nobody.” “Rattlin’ Bones,” performed by animate skeletons, may even invade our nightmares.
A work of such ambition necessarily has complex production values; surprisingly, the show’s production needs were met by the parents of the young dancers. Body Talk has no paid production staff. The hundreds of costumes for the show were brought together and fabricated when necessary by a committee of seventeen individuals, co-chaired by Carol Lewis and Lydia Wolf. Volunteer parents similarly staffed the other design fields.
Body Talk Dance Company puts on a large showcase performance about twice a year and class recitals whenever desired. Theatre and dance fans enjoy these shows, well produced at the secondary education level, because they reveal the dance stars of tomorrow. If this is of no interest to one, rest assured that any of their shows give an exciting evening of performance regardless. All who care about community events may follow this group with satisfying results.