‘Blast from the Past’: Dance production 2022 reimagines music from past shows


Michelle Wei

Dancers in the “Way Down We Go” routine strike a pose during a dress rehearsal for this year’s dance production, Blast from the Past. 130 students performed in the shows on Jan. 28 and Jan. 29 in the Rothschild Performing Arts Center’s Patil Theater.

by Sally Zhu and Michelle Liu

A hush of excitement falls over the audience as the lights dim in Patil Theater. The curtains draw back. Regal trumpet sounds blare from the soundtrack, announcing the dancers spotlighted in formation on stage. For the first time in two years, members of Harker Dance Company and Kinetic Krew perform the annual dance production’s opening number in front of a live audience. Pink and purple lights flood the theater, with the dancers shining brightly in sparkly pink flapper dresses and blue sequined jackets. 

80 students and 13 dance routines lit up the stage in this year’s dance production, themed “Blast from the Past.” Featuring tap, hip-hop and lyrical routines, the show used songs from past dance productions ranging from 2012 to 2020 and included six student-choreographed dances. Students and choreographers began preparation for the production last fall, with auditions held in September and rehearsals starting in early October. 

The production’s three sold-out performances took place in the Patil Theater of the Rothschild Performing Arts Center on the evening of Jan. 28 and the afternoon and evening of Jan. 29, with socially-distanced seating requirements due to the pandemic. The Friday-night performance was also live streamed here to virtual audiences because of the limited seating, a change from last year’s Dance Production which only had a recorded performance with no audience. Juliana Li (9), who danced in “Nicest Thing,” a lyrical routine choreographed by Kuehn that narrates the story of one-sided romance, welcomed the production’s return to the in-person stage in classes and the shows. 

“It’s pretty refreshing because in the last two years, I basically wasn’t able to perform on stage,” Juliana said. “I like in-person dancing better because you actually get in-person corrections from the teacher. The lag in online classes is pretty bad and you’re always off the music, so it feels better to be back in person again.” 

The show kicked off with “Opening,” which featured the casts of the upper school dance teams, as per previous productions, and closed with a finale of the entire production cast. The 13 routines were choreographed by dance teachers Karl Kuehn, Rachelle Haun, Kento Vo, Kimberly Teodoro and Jessica Arguello-Chatfield, as well as eight student choreographers. 

The student choreographers, Makayla Aguilar-Zuniga (11), BB Ajlouny (11), Kai Due (12), Nupur Gupta (11), Nikki Kapadia (12), Eileen Ma (11), Sujith Pakala (12), Brandon Park (12), Anja Ree (11) and Irene Yuan (12), took part in a choreography class where they worked on music, choreography, costumes, lighting and learned to teach routines to fellow students.

Having a lot of people who are ready to learn, and who will work hard to try to get it right, was my favorite part.

— Kai Due (12), dance production student choreographer

“Teaching is very fun — it’s not something you get to do very often,” said Kai, who choreographed a hip-hop routine to “Fire” by BTS. “Having a lot of people who are ready to learn, and who will work hard to try to get it right, was my favorite part.” 

The show featured a variety of colorful and inventive costumes, props and stage design to create a set of unique performances. Dancers wore black-and-grey colorblock bodysuits while performing to the song “Paint it Black,” and Brandon’s routine to “Heathens” involved a glowing prop lantern and smoke machine fog to create a mysterious effect. During the dress rehearsal on Jan. 22, choreographers consulted with lighting designer Natti Pierce-Thomson to test the lighting for their routines and refine the chosen colors to perfection. Routines used a variety of lighting styles to match the moods of dances, which ranged from mellow and melancholy to dramatic and fiery. 

Nupur, as a first-year student choreographer who worked with Makayla on the routine to “Way Down We Go,” chose black blindfolds as part of the routine’s costume to add another layer of meaning. Dancers performed with their eyes covered on stage, slowly taking off the blindfolds as the routine drew to an end. Nupur enjoyed working with her co-choreographer and fellow dancers, taking away many new insights from the experience. 

“This is my first year choreographing for the dance show and it really means a lot to me to get this opportunity to choreograph for such a great show,” Nupur said. “I’m hoping to choreograph next year as well and see how I grow as a choreographer throughout the years.”

Upper school dancers will be featured later in the year in “Just Dance,” a performance at Patil Theater showcasing all Harker dance teams, the Santana Row Dance Festival in April and Senior Showcase in May.