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A gleaming Golden Ticket, Rivers of Chocolate, Gobstoppers & Oompa Loompas:

Dancers bring “Charlie & the Chocolate Factory” deliciously to life
Siona Caldwell (Wonka) and Silvia Henley (Charlie); photo by Linda Crayton
Siona Caldwell (Wonka) and Silvia Henley (Charlie); photo by Linda Crayton

Dance! Vashon brings Roald Dahl’s “Charlie & the Chocolate Factory” to stage at the Vashon High School Theater this weekend, June 24-26.  The production is the 20th show directed by Vashon Dance Academy Artistic Director and Dance Teacher Cheryl Krown and Co-Director/Teacher Julie Gibson, featuring over 100 Vashon dancers, from ages 3 to adult.  The performance is an annual favorite, renowned for its creativity, colorful costumes, giant sets, humor, and student contributions.

Sharing the lead part of Charlie Bucket are Eva Cyra and graduating senior Silvia Henley.  With characters such as gum drops, gobstoppers, an elevator, golden tickets, factory smoke and the eccentric Willy Wonka himself, the show promises to be highly entertaining for all ages.  

Vashon Dance Academy’s shows are known for their bold and creative choreography; the students have tremendous opportunity to shape the performance and provide input throughout the five month process of creating the show. Siona Caldwell who dances the role of Willy Wonka illustrated the creative jamming that happens: “Before we really start dancing we sit and talk about the ideas and the concepts of a dance in the show, and this is my favorite part. This sometimes involves sketching out the different parts- like the fast part and the part that should have a certain movement. It’s when everyone’s creative ideas come out and it gets the ball rolling.”

VHS Junior Eva Cyra explained what this was like for her personally:”A highlight of developing the choreography for the show this year was being able to contribute my own  creative knowledge to each piece of choreography. I’ve been dancing ever since I was two years old, so about 15 years in total. Dance has instilled a strong sense of discipline, creativity and confidence in me that will continue to help me through life after high school.”

Silvia Henley concurred that the student-led choreography was a highlight: “My favorite part of choreography would probably have to be the smoke dance. At the beginning of this whole process, I helped Cheryl and Julie look for music to use in the show. I came across a beautiful piece of music, but didn’t know what we could use it for. Also, it was looking like the principals wouldn’t get to do a class dance together, since so many of us were busy with our individual parts. So we brainstormed and came up with the idea of being factory smoke at the very beginning of the show, and decided to use the piece of music I found. The choreography is beautiful, and on top of that it’s the only chance we get to dance a classical ballet piece together, which makes it extra special.

“Dance has taught me many things. I’ve learned discipline, coordination, and the ability to learn quickly. In the studio there are always dancers at different skill levels, and the teachers have to challenge everyone, so you have to train yourself to just go for it, even if there’s a good chance you’ll mess up.

“Another, more valuable thing dance has given me is community. Over the past few years, I’ve spent hundreds of hours at the studio, and each year I become close with the girls in my dance class. In the spring when we’re preparing for our performance, I’d almost say I see them more than I see my family, so in a sense they are my second family. When I go to college next year I hope to find a group of friends I feel as close with as I feel with them.”

Dance Teacher and VDA Co-Director Julie Gibson explains, “One of the highlights of this year’s show is our beautiful sets designed by Bernie LaCarte and Pablo Peani.  They both have daughters at our school and they have met all year during their daughters’ ballet classes on Mondays to brainstorm on the sets for this year’s show.  They are truly eye candy -- pun intended!”

Freshman Aziza Moyer is performing the parts of Violet, a Candy Seller and a Gobstopper. She has danced for the past 12 years, since the age of three. “Dance has taught me how to focus, be persistent, work with others, and strive for perfection. I help teach classes for young kids, and this has really helped me become more of a leader and taught me how to be patient. Probably one of the best feelings in the world is having a group of little ones run up to you at the end of a class for a hug goodbye.

“Dance has also helped me improve academically. Many ballet dancers have very good grades, but not because you need to be very smart to dance. Ballet is all about finding perfection, and if you grow up with this mindset then it will often end up being applied to many parts of your life.”

Gibson agrees, saying, “I have been involved at the studio dancing, choreographing and teaching since 2001.  I work full time in the IT field and at my desk I have a picture of the principal characters from the last time we did ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.’  That was about the time when I realized the dancers are my inspiration. I teach and choreograph because I love seeing these dancers grow into confident young women.  Dance is a discipline and with that they will succeed after high school in whatever direction they go.  I want to help them get there.  Every year I have favorite memories of the graduating seniors and the roles they played.  This year Silvia Henley, one of our Charlie’s, is our sole graduate.  She is a strong dancer with a strong determination to be successful.  I have loved working with her to craft the role to her personality and her strengths.  This show is about the dancers - they are the magic!”

Krown shared how she got started with dance and what inspires her to continue her work as a teacher, “I think that the kids who dance are able to feel a huge freedom of expression, and empowerment by having the ability to convey feelings without using words. For a shyer dancer, as I was as a child, I remember walking into a dance studio with my mom, peeking around her legs, to see the most beautiful scene! There was a teacher and all of these little girls whirling around the room to beautiful music with scarves! I raced in, to my mom’s complete shock, grabbed a scarf and joined them. I have never looked back!

“Dance is such a wonderful art form, in that your character is embodied and not spoken. We want these dancers to always be comfortable in conveying many different types of characters, and to be able to put their own personal spin into their parts.”

Producer Gretchen Aro Spranger agreed, saying, “The culture of the Vashon Dance Academy is always present but truly highlighted during the production. The creativity and energy the volunteers bring to each piece of the show makes it a true community event. The comradery amongst the dancers, the mentoring the older dancers offer the younger kids. the self confidence, excitement, and care for each other I see in these kids....it’s why my kids dance at VDA and it’s why I feel lucky to be producing Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”

Moyer concluded, “I hope that everyone goes to the show this year because we have all been working so hard, and I think it is going to be a unique production and wonderful to watch. It has been so much fun creating it and I’m so grateful to all of the ladies I dance with who make everything infinitely more enjoyable. And if the thought passes through your head that dance is easy- please, attend a class and see how you feel then. Maybe us dancers make it look easier than it is...”

Dance! Vashon’s shows typically sell out, so purchasing tickets in advance is advised. Tickets for the 7:30 PM performances on Friday and Saturday nights and for the 1:30 PM matinees on Saturday and Sunday can be purchased in advance at Vashon Bookshop and are $15/adults and $11/students. Saturday matinee tickets are discounted at $10/$8.