Once more, with feeling
Rosemount High School's Modern Company wants to make you mad.
Really mad. Stand up and shout in frustration mad.
It's an unusual goal for a high school dance company, granted, but the way the company's dancers see things it's all part of the experience when you're doing a show about the seven deadly sins.
The 14-member Modern Company will present SALIGIA: Descending Through the Seven Deadly Sins at 7 p.m. May 29 at the RHS performing arts center. The first part of the name is an acronym for the Latin names of the sins.
The show is a bit of a departure for the advanced student dance group from last year's skydiving-fueled celebration of movement, or the nature-inspired outdoor show of two years ago.
"It's definitely darker," dance teacher Christina Morris said. "Each piece, we looked at, what exactly does (the sin) mean."
Students researched the sins and their historical punishments. They explored the colors associated with each one. Then they translated each into modern terms. Thus, gluttony becomes about depleting natural resources and envy features a trio of girls primping and playing with their hair in an effort to look their best.
Wrath, that piece designed to get under everyone's skin, features grating music and a collection of some of the minor annoyances that tend to build up until a person's temper boils over.
From what the company has seen so far, it works. The dancers previewed the piece at a larger dance show in March and got the kind of reaction they were looking for.
"They were irritated and aggravated and I was like, 'Good. That's what I wanted you to feel,'" Morris said. "It really does take dance to a level where the audience not only experiences it visually but feels it emotionally."
Generating that kind of emotion isn't always easy. Trying to portray lust on stage in front of an audience of family and friends is awkward, to say the least.
"It's a challenge, but it's really fun to find that emotion that everyone has and bring it out through dance," said Niki Mussell, who is in her first year with the Modern Company. "Trying to connect with the people as you dance is the hardest part. We want them to feel what we're trying to portray."
Students said they tried to use experiences from their own lives as motivation for their performances.
"It's so personal," said dancer Tony Streiff.
Sometimes that emotion spills out into the rehearsal. Most of the seven pieces in the show are collaborative efforts, and getting that many dancers to work together sometimes led to conflicts. But the dancers said hard feelings were usually gone as quickly as they popped up. Wrath or envy quickly conquered by group harmony.
The show presents other challenges, too. It's more technical than the company's other recent shows.There are props ranging from exercise balls to wooden boxes to a big surprise for the end of the show that Morris prefers to keep secret.
The dancers have been part of all of it. Morris wants her dancers to get a sense of what it's like to be part of a professional company, and that means spending time building and painting props as much as it means rehearsing a dance piece.
Like all of the company's shows in recent years SALIGIA is a fund raiser. In this case, money will go to Free Arts Minnesota, a non-profit that uses the arts to reach out to neglected, abused and at-risk children.
So you can feel good. Even as you're getting mad.