With the help of a number of special guests, the St. Stephen’s Upper School concert dance company, Chrysalis is working hard preparing for their big winter performance in January 2024. The first important decision for the 13-member group, was selecting a theme for the show which sets the stage for a variety of dances they will perform across a range of styles–from ballet to contemporary to hip hop.
Director of Dance Bonnie Alonzo-Hansen said the dancers landed on the “highly appropriate” and timely theme of mental health.
“A lot of them experienced the pandemic, and a lot of them had a hard time with that,” says Alonzo-Hansen. “I think ever since then, they’ve been trying to get a grasp on their mental health. They’re trying to get behind the openness of it so we don’t have to suffer in silence."
She says the girls are really excited about being more transparent about the topic. Through their artistry and expression, the dancers see this as a way to empower themselves and others. Alonzo-Hanson is hopeful the audience will feel something, too.
Over the last few weeks, she has invited a variety of guest choreographers to St. Stephen’s to work with the students creating different dances from scratch. The first guest was no stranger to The Hill. Deirdre Strand, who founded Chrysalis and originally hired Alonzo-Hanson as St. Stephen's Middle School dance instructor, returned to campus for the first time since she retired in 2020. Strand choreographed a very optimistic ballet piece that incorporates butterflies and transformation, and focuses on the importance of self-care.
Strand’s daughter and Spartan alum, Siobhan Alexis ‘06, choreographed the second dance which is centered around coping skills. The dancers will be dressed in oversized buttoned down men’s shirts, which they use to comfort themselves. One of the performers, who is the soloist, is not wearing a shirt because she wants to express what it feels like to experience a mental disorder without being equipped with the right coping tools.
Recently, two more guest choreographers–Vivian Kim and Keith Haynes–who went to grad school with Alonzo-Hanson at University of Colorado Boulder traveled to Austin to set hip hop and contemporary dances for the show.
“I like watching them learn and I like how open they are to the creative process,” said Alonzo-Hansen. “They’re so open-minded and they love to dance so much–it’s rewarding to see that.”
More dances will be finalized in the coming weeks, including three senior solos. There is a lot of work to be done as the dancers continue learning and perfecting each piece for the concert on January 19 and 20.