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Teens polish their moves

ArreiS 2013 offers Newport Harbor students a chance to show their many talents on the dance floor.

March 21, 2013|By Rhea Mahbubani
  • Molly Manser, left, and Morgan Thomson perform "Maddy's Dance," a tribute to Maddy Boutelle, who died last year. Manser is Boutelle's cousin.
Molly Manser, left, and Morgan Thomson perform "Maddy's… (Courtesy Cristina…)

From jazz to musical theater and hip-hop to contemporary, it's all fair game at Newport Harbor High School's "ArreiS 2013."

The show, a potpourri of beginning and intermediate dancers and members of the junior varsity and varsity dance teams, runs until Saturday, spotlighting 133 students from freshman to seniors. A few football players and athletes also signed up for the troupe, which otherwise stars mostly girls.

The two-hour concert showcases 23 routines, including three solos and seven student-choreographed pieces.

Dance Team captain Kelsey Long created a solo routine labeled "All or Nothing," plus a group number called "Flock" — both fusions of jazz and contemporary.

"I love being able to express myself without words and being able to perform for people and bringing smiles to their faces," said Long, 18, of Newport Beach.

Overjoyed to share the stage with her best friends, Long, a dancing enthusiast since she was 3, said the dance team has served as a venue for several of her closest relationships, drawing together a dynamic mix.

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Watching dancers like Long grow, whether in technique or ability, has been the most rewarding part of Julie Simmons' week.

As the school's dance director, Simmons oversees the annual production, for which students start rehearsing in September.

"It's an entertaining show with a lot of energy, videos that depict what life is like for our dancers off-stage, and diversity in choreography," Simmons said. "It's very fast moving — there aren't many pauses between one dance and the next."

Simmons and her daughter, Tara Olson, became associated with Harbor High in 1999, as the dance program was on the verge of going under. The 55-year-old Newport Beach resident recognized that dancers who had been training and competing their entire childhoods, like Olson, needed an art outlet even at school.

She revamped the program, infusing it with life, providing what is now like "a sport for these kids," she said.

After graduating, Olson returned to her alma mater as the dance team coach and, hand in hand with her mother, created opportunities for students to experiment with various styles and choreography — giving them an edge in today's industry.

The program's $20,000 budget comes from a combination of donations, car washes, candle sales and annual Dancing with the Teachers events.

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