It was just after intermission at last year’s Rogers Ballet Inc. student concert when the tornado sirens started wailing.
The dancers on stage could hear the sirens, but they kept going, not missing a pirouette or a pas de bourree.
Stage manager and associate professor of dance Stan Rogers interrupted the number to let the audience know what was happening. A tornado had been reported on the ground near the airport, he said, and it was time to head to the basement. Everyone went, including the audience members and all the costumed dancers, both on stage and backstage.
“Two of the little ones were crying, and a man said to them, ‘Are you afraid?’ ” remembers Sharon Rogers, the teacher of the dancers and the creator of the annual show. And they said, ‘No, we just wanted to dance.’ ”
The premature ending of last year’s Rogers Ballet student concert, an intricately choreographed and costumed annual show performed by Rogers Ballet students, served as inspiration for the beginning of this year’s show, which happens this weekend in Sebits Auditorium in Friends University’s Riney Fine Arts Center. (The tornado caused damage on the far west side of Wichita but no injuries.)
The 2013 show was titled “Fun and Games” and featured the students, who range in age from 4-year-old beginners to Friends University ballet majors and adult ballet students, performing dances inspired by board games such as “Sorry,” “Scrabble” and “Candy Land.”
This weekend’s show is called “More Fun and Games” and will pick up where last year’s left off. Sharon Rogers always weaves a story line through the concert, connecting one dance to the next. In the opening scenes, the audience will see last year’s set with pieces tumbled and tossed around. The characters, including the Queen of Hearts, emerge from the basement to assess the damage and resume their search, started last year, for the queen’s lost tart recipe.
“I loved the theme, because it’s just fun,” said Rogers, who owns the Friends-based Rogers Ballet Inc. and who also is an associate professor of dance at the university. “I knew I could come up with new games. I just said, ‘I want to do this theme again.’ ”
The dancers will perform a variety of dance styles, from ballet to tap to jazz. Their movements and costumes will combine to evoke various board games and party games. The tiniest dancers, dressed in pink skirts and carrying fur-covered muffs, are the game pieces in “Dora’s Ice Skating Spectacular.” Other age groups will represent dominoes, marbles and action heroes. One group will dance its way to Monopoly-ville.
The college-aged dancers will perform pieces from popular classic ballets. Victoria Lauder and Maylon Tibbets will be dancing The Peasant pas de deux from “Giselle,” and Sophie Meyers and Taylor Osterman will dance a piece from “The Sleeping Beauty.” The dance majors also will perform a couple of pieces choreographed by Stan Rogers, including a pas de deux set to Tchaikovsky.
Sharon Rogers spends months conceptualizing and choreographing her spring concerts, she said. She’ll start working on next year’s show almost as soon as this one wraps.
Her goal is to keep the performance exciting, she said – but not evacuate-to-the-basement exciting.
“I always want these concerts to be entertaining to people who don’t have anyone they came to watch,” she said.