Creativity on display at recital

Published 2:02 pm Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Much creativity, imagination and hard work came together Friday and Saturday nights at Greenville’s Ritz Theatre, as Sonya Rice’s 92 dance students from preschool to high school took their audiences to visit “The Wonderful World of Oz” for the studio’s gala 20th anniversary production.

Seniors Kendall Burt, Mary Hannah Miller, Clemmie Croley and Kathryn Crocker performed in a lively and humorous character dance as the lead characters from “The Wizard of Oz.” The foursome, who combined have 50 years of tutelage from Rice, also transported audience members from babyhood to young adulthood in their touching modern/lyrical final dance, “When We Were Young.”

Rice’s students displayed their talents in creative movement, ballet, contemporary dance, jazz and hip hop while taking the audience from a rural Kansas home to the gritty urban streets. Music from two of the dance teacher/choreographer’s favorite films, 1939’s “The Wizard of Oz” and 1978’s “The Wiz” along with the award-winning Broadway musical, “Wicked,” were featured throughout the production.

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A Family Affair

Rice and her two daughters Courtney and Cory also performed in several numbers in the show. Mom showed off her Michael Jacksonesque moves as the Scarecrow in a performance with the Pre-Jazz Class, while Courtney and Cory each performed solo dances as Elphaba and the Wizard.

The Rice girls have a tradition of returning home each spring to help their mother with all aspects of the annual recital.

This year, however, the family’s tragic loss brought Courtney back to Greenville much earlier than usual.

“With the death of my mother just a few months ago, I really could not have done all this without Courtney,” Rice said. “She sublet her New York City apartment and she came here to work with me in the studio. This show was a big collaboration between the two of us. I came up with the storyline and music and Courtney helped with the choreography and teaching.”

Courtney’s college major was contemporary dance, and her mother considers her choreography for the “Water” piece in Act II “absolutely mesmerizing.”

“I worked with the smaller children on the ‘Emerald City’ sequence while Courtney did the ‘Gold’ number with the Advanced Group, and I loved it. It was a wonderful Broadway dance she created,” said Rice.

The mother-daughter duo also collaborated on the high-energy “Ease on Down the Road,” a “wonderful highlight to end Act I.”

Courtney taught Advanced Ballet students at the studio, a change Rice believes really benefited her young dancers.

“I love having a guest artist come in to teach! You never want your student to get so comfortable with your own style and technique that they cannot catch on quickly to what another choreographer might want,” Rice explained. “Having her come in and teach this season was a blessing for me and my students.”

And Courtney isn’t done yet, her proud mother says. This summer, the two Rices are collaborating on “Elevate,” the studio’s 2016 dance camp incorporating dance, theater, visual arts, health and film.

“Courtney is an amazing teacher/choreographer, and I am more than blessed to have her here for a short time working with my students,” said Rice.

For more information about “Elevate,” call (334) 546-2923.