West Valley High students join Artesan Dance Co. pros for 2 shows

By: Joe Szydlowski of The Record Searchlight

For almost 20 years, Roni Grandell has taught dance classes at West Valley High School, but during October she's sharing the limelight with a troupe of professional dancers.

That's because the Artesan Dance Co. is collaborating with the West Valley High School advanced dance class to plan a joint performance at the end of October. Named the Fusion Project, it features several professional dancers divvying up the class and coaching small groups. The dancing is a fusion of modern and classical, focusing on molding the dancers' bodies into sharp angles, said Summer Odell, director of the Artesan Dance Co. "(The students) have great attitudes we're trying to make a really great experience and put on a great show for the community. At our show, they'll have something they'll be able to be proud of."

The Fusion Project grew out of a one-day workshop last March, Grandell said. Odell, a former student, had come by to talk with students about professional dancing.

Grandell said the students liked the workshop, so she asked Odell about pooling their resources for a show in the fall.

Odell, a 1997 WVHS graduate, said she jumped on the idea of working with her former teacher.

Aimee Redden, 16, said the Artesan dancers have given them tips on style and techniques.

"We're trying to make a story through dance, and so we have to act more with the dancing," she said. The individual attention that two or three dancers can give to the groups of students allows the instructors to correct the students' mistakes.

For the students, she said, they can ask questions.

"If it was only (Odell) coming, there's about 40 kids in this dance class. She can't help us all individually," she said.

The seven dancers visit twice a week to work with the students. They often work one on one with the students, said Cynthia Dwinell, 17. In her class of around 40 students, that level of attention allows each instructor to spend time working with students having trouble with the moves.

The performances will feature original dance moves choreographed by Artesan.

Hailee Warpula, 15, said being up on stage releases a surge of adrenaline.

"It's nerve-racking but exciting," she said.

The class is benefiting outside of dancing, Grandell said, because some of the professional dancers come from outside the United States.

"The girls get international exposure without leaving Cottonwood," she said.