‘That Thing Called Swing’ comes to Beaver Creek
EAGLE COUNTY – Dancing is like life.
“You lead, you follow, you compromise; they’re life lessons,” said Colin Meiring, who’s helping direct “That Thing Called Swing,” the Vail Performing Arts Academy’s fall show.
At one point there are 40 couples dancing on stage to Benny Goodman’s “Sing, Sing, Sing.”
“It’s like a great powder day. It’s wonderful, and you have to remember you’re not the only one out there,” said Blaize Olle, one of the 80 cast members.
“I’ve always been a dancer. Colin is my jazz teacher and he got me involved in it,”Olle said.
And what do we learn in performing arts school?
“What you learn depends on the show,” Olle said. “In this show everyone dances with lots of different partners and that can create challenges. Heights and abilities are different for different people. Some people will lead or be led more easily than others.”
The cast includes 80 kids between the ages of 8 and 18. Olle is 16 and this is his fourth show. It’s turning out wonderfully, but Meiring was apprehensive initially.
“Having experience with review shows on cruise ships, it’s easy to come up with ideas,” Meiring said. “I wasn’t very optimistic about trying it with the kids because it’s partner dancing. They’re interested in their next solo, not so much being guided and partnered.”
But like most of us, kids believe what they see and they see ballroom dancing all over television. “Dancing with the Stars,” and locally The Youth Foundation’s Star Dancing Gala have reintroduced our world to ballroom dancing.
“Its popularity has soared and my faith in humanity has been restored,” Meiring said, himself a dancer and instructor since he was 3 years old.
It’s not easy, but it’s worth it, Olle says.
“It can be frustrating when you don’t get something right away. But I’m not the kind of person who gives up. None of us are,” Olle said. “When I don’t get something right away it makes me want to work harder until I do.”
It’s all about the kids learning to work together, said Annah Scully, the Vail Performing Arts Academy founder and executive producer.
“They’re not out there by themselves. They have to think of their partners and their partner’s toes,” Scully said.
It’s not a play. It’s a show. The Vail Performing Arts Academy does a different theme every time. This fall it’s big band music and ballroom dancing.
Meiring is a champion ballroom dancer and dance instructor, and makes this sort of show possible, Scully said.
Meiring has been working with Scully for eight years, choreographing and directing Vail Performing Arts Academy shows. He left New York City shortly after 9/11 for the safety of the Vail Valley.
“One of the reasons we’re doing this show is because he has this background,” Scully said.
Meiring’s list of international honors and titles is long and impressive, but he’d rather look forward than back.
“When I turned professional I learned that you’re only as good as your next gig, and my next gig is teaching kids,” Meiring said. “It really is about the kids and them coming from nothing to be able to perform and dance on stage.”
Those 80 kids will perform the Charleston, Lindy-Hop, Jitterbug, Jive and East Coast Swing.
“These dances are difficult to learn,” Scully said.
They’ll perform to the music of Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman, Doris Day and Xavier Cugat, who did many of the most popular Latin big band compositions of the 1940s. It’ll also feature the music of the Andrews Sisters and Fred Astaire.
“They’d never heard any of it. It was a real history lesson for them,” Scully said. “By bringing this era to the kids, they not only learn the music and the dance, they learn history. It’s not only an artistic experience, it’s educational.”
The two acts are each 40 minutes long.
Vocal director Marsha Marshal is teaching harmonies. Janet Huntoon and Patti Thornton are the costumers.
“Janet is the queen of recycling. She can take a Kleenex and make it into a prom dress,” Scully said.
The Vail Performing Arts Academy is one of the charities that will benefit from the Eagles Nest Raffle, Scully said. Dr. Gary Weiss is raffling off a $450,000 house in Eagle. Raffle tickets are $100 each and the deadline is Dec. 15.
The Vail Performing Arts Academy has been around since Scully launched it in 1996. Students receive theater arts direction from some of the industry’s top professionals and perform in places like the Vilar Center.
More than 2,500 young people have participated in the past 15 years.
“There is nothing like watching a student discover that ‘I-can-do-this’ feeling,” Scully said.
Like everyone in the cast, Olle says he does it because he love the theater and loves performing.
“I love being on stage and in front of people,” he said. “That’s where I have the most fun and feel the most comfortable.”
When they finish Sunday, they start on the next production, the spring showcase called “Kidz Rock.”
“It’s all the music teens and tweens are listening to,” Scully said. “It’s a tribute to popular teen sensations of the millennium.
Rehearsals begin in January and the shows are in March.
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