There are a lot of programs at Chelsea High School that provide students with outlets for creativity, ones that aren’t necessarily associated with art—at least in the manner of drawing, painting, or sculpting; these organizations focus on art in terms of music, acting, and dance. Ballet Chelsea, Theater Guild, and Company C are all clubs that give kids an opportunity to form new friendships and create something bigger than themselves. Not only so, but these acts of performance art have a multitude of things in common. The programs are intensive and require a great amount of commitment from students, and have changed and formed over the years in a variety of ways.
Though theater is over for the remainder of the year—its last play, Peter and the Star Catcher, was performed right before spring break—no one can deny the rigorous schedule the performers faced on the daily; rehearsal took place Monday through Saturday, with Sunday being the group’s only off-day, from around 3-7 pm during the week and 12-6 pm on Saturday. This does not even include tech week, during which the troupe is there until about 8:30 each night. Tech week—or “hell week,” as some call it—allows the group to perform its play in full. While at regular rehearsals the team simply runs through the act, tech week is the time for the production to come together as the guild adds lights and sounds, makeup and costumes, and a number of other things so that all can run smoothly during their performances with an audience.
The Theater Guild has also had some transitions during the year. A source from the troupe, senior Annie Nichol, explained that there have been changes to the group in terms of who is in charge of the students. Chuck Griffin, the theater handyman, stepped down due to differences with the school and Chelsea High School.
While changes in staffing made way, one major thing has been happening at Ballet Chelsea throughout these past few years: various classes have been cut, combined, and shaped into a way that definitely emphasizes the “ballet” in Ballet Chelsea. Dance is a rigorous thing no matter what, one comparable to theater and Company C in terms of the intense schedule. However, Ballet Chelsea became much more intense as a number of classes that were not ballet, such as hip-hop and lyrical, were combined into one—eventually being cut all together. In line with this, a number of classes, like jazz and modern, were created with a new ballet requirement, or technique, in mind. This was to ensure that ballet would be taken more seriously within the studio, making sure that it was truly the focus.
There is a likely reason that Ballet Chelsea has decided to focus so much more on ballet in years past—it has a great number of talented individuals who are constant and consistent in their efforts; ballet is an intensive program, and requires great dedication. Senior Stephanie Dehoorne, who has recently been accepted to the dance program at Loyola in Chicago, commented on the demanding schedule of the ballet, saying, “During production season (September to December for Nutcracker and January to March for spring production) we rehearse every weekend Saturday and Sunday. Saturday’s start at around 10:30-11 am—depending on your level—for company class. Then around 1, we have an hour of conditioning. After that, rehearsals last until around 6:30-7pm. Sunday’s are usually shorter but depending on your role, you may spend more or less time at the studio. Rehearsals are difficult for several reasons: ballet is difficult to start with, but put on top of that moving in sync with 15 other girls in a Corp de ballet, remembering choreography, spacing, and acting all factor into the “dance” aspect of rehearsals. Working with a partner—partnering—is especially difficult and is reserved for older/ more experienced dancers. You have to be in complete sync with them and trust them not to drop you when you’re six feet above their head. Rehearsals are run by the artistic director and a handful of assistants, who teach us throughout the week after school/ during our normal classes. During the year we rehearse during the week and on weekends for MYAF (Michigan Youth Arts Festival), Youth America Grand Prix, Recital etc.” There is no denying that ballet is a serious commitment, one where the students involved spend hours of their lives each day working to make something greater.
Among the most competitive groups here at Chelsea High School is by far Company C. Company C is known for being exhausting in the way it pushes students to perform to the best of their ability. With different levels of Co. C—Level One is the highest, the one which you cannot play a spring sport or even have a job in order to obtain—comes the wish to do well; Mr. Hinz makes sure that all of the students stay determined and practice like they’ll eventually perform, even if they may not be Level One. As senior Leah Pifer said, “I used to rehearse three days a week for two hours and then from 3 to [around] 8:30 the week before a show and when we do dance boot camp, but that’s done for me now because I’m the lowest level; everyone else still rehearses for small groups. Rehearsals are a lot of dancing, a little bit of stretching and some singing, and during small groups now for the higher levels they do little group singing groups.”
Company C, much like theater, or even ballet, has to run through things in the auditorium before a show. Sometimes it is difficult for all the different groups to schedule for a show, particularly in the late winter and early spring months when all are in the middle of their own hype; some conflict has ensued in the past only in the manner in which it was difficult to decide show dates and share the auditorium accordingly. However, things have always been cordial, and no one at Chelsea works quite as hard as the students involved in Ballet Chelsea, Theater Guild, and Company C—yet they often do not receive the credit they deserve. The high school and all that attend it should do more to appreciate those who put in the time and effort that these kids do, as it truly takes up an insurmountable amount of their time. Their unwavering dedication and talent is admirable. One thing is for sure: the performing arts are here to stay.