SPOTLIGHTS AND KICK LINES
A sisterhood. A form of expression. An escape. For many seniors, this is how art functions in their lives. One of these seniors is Madi Anderson-Au.
“When [I’m] on the stage, it’s like nothing else exists. Nothing else matters,” Anderson-Au said. “It’s amazing that there’s so many things going on in the world, but when you’re performing, it’s just that one thing.”
This is how Anderson-Au describes her experiences dancing on the song team and at Dance Academy USA. For Anderson-Au, and dance team seniors Erin Lewis and Nicole Pound, the thrill of performing is almost indescribable. At best, Lewis can only describe it as a rush of adrenaline.
“Your heart’s beating really fast,” Lewis said. “Some of my friends say it’s like more of they’re terrified, they don’t wanna go, but to me it’s like I get that feeling and I’m just excited. It’s like a nervous excitement where you get all jittery and you’re like ‘come on let’s do this, let’s do this.’”
For both Lewis and Anderson-Au, performing used to be much more stressful. Anderson-Au recalls how she’d get stomach aches and how her head would spin while waiting on the side before stepping onto the stage. Lewis recalls an instance this year when she ended up facing the wrong way during a competition — she said that her freshman year, she would’ve panicked.
“What freshman me would’ve done, I would’ve freaked out and probably froze a bit,” Lewis said. “But when I turned around … I put on like the biggest smile I could, like ‘You did not see me do anything, this is meant to be [a] solo.’”
As a freshman, she was introverted, looking down when she walked. Since then, Lewis has found that it’s hard to be shy on a dance team.
“Having to perform in front of our school during rallies and stuff, especially when you’re in [the] front — you can’t be an introverted small person — you have to actually have a smile, look like you’re having fun,” Lewis said.
For senior Jessica Kimm, the moments between each performance have been just as important as the performances themselves.
“All the adrenaline is nice but I think the in-between, like the specific moments where like you’re waiting between pregame and halftime when you’re just talking with your best friends and stuff [are some of my favorite moments,]” Kimm said.
For Pound, the performing and the team bonding aspects of dance have helped her become both more confident and extroverted.
“Dance is my thing,” Pound said. “It’s my passion, and so being able to do that in high school with a group of people that are really supportive and who also share the same passion — it’s really fun. It’s probably the best thing I’ve done in high school.”
Kimm agrees that dance team has helped her form countless friendships. Throughout her time on the team, she’s formed special bonds with many of the members, even over something as simple as laughing together in their hotel rooms at competitions.
But with these four years coming to an end, all four seniors have been thinking about the future, and the role dance will play during their time in college. Although Lewis is disappointed that she may not have time to keep dancing in college, Anderson-Au and Pound are hopeful that they’ll be able to continue their passion.
“I’m probably going to be doing it until my body can’t take it any more,” Pound said. “It’s such a big part of my life I wouldn’t know what to do without it.”
SING AND SHOUT
When MVHS’ Variations received the spirit award during the Anaheim Heritage Festival, senior Mritthika Harish cheered so much that she lost her voice the next day. For Harish, choir trips consist of singing and spending time with her friends, as well as the occasional celebration when they win an award. While she considers herself shy, she feels that choir has helped her make connections easily with her peers. She believes that it’s moments like those that have helped her connect with people. Since choir is something many MVHS students continue throughout all four years of high school, she says she never had to worry about being in a class of strangers. For senior Amanda Zhao, these trips also strengthened her friendships in choir.
Yet although many students continue in choir, it wasn’t senior Shaunak Tulshibagwale’s original intention when he first joined his freshman year. He’d originally taken choir to get an art credit, but ended up really enjoying it. Beyond the singing, the choir room’s environment is also something he appreciates.
“Choir’s kind of a comfort zone for me where you know when you’re going to go into this class, you’re going to be either singing and that’s something I enjoy, or working on music or hearing music,” Tulshibagwale said. “The relaxed environment is something that I looked forward to every day.”
Although Harish and Zhao say they have improved on skills like singing harmonies and reading notes, Harish says she’s also learned to become more comfortable in the spotlight.
“I don’t like being the center of attention; I’m more of someone that hides in a corner. You don’t have that choice being in choir because you have lights on you 24/7 no matter where you stand,” Harish said. “It gave me anxiety [at first], but it [ultimately] gave me more confidence.”
Tulshibagwale also feels that his own personal growth has paralleled his growth as a singer.
“The way I would sing kind of gives an analogy for my personality,” Tulshibagwale said. “In freshman year, I was really quiet, I was reserved. I wasn’t able to — you know people would be like ‘oh, you sing?’ and then ‘sing on command right now’ and I’d be really shaken. And now as I’ve grown older, I’ve kind of found my voice and found who I am as a person.”
Zhao also says that she’s learned more about working with others, especially during Singing Valentines. Almost every step of the process from the song selection to the choreography is created by students.
“The stakes aren’t that high [in class group projects] because if you mess up, only that one class sees it but if it’s Singing Valentines for example, if you mess up it’s kind of like ‘yikes,’” Zhao said. “You have to build up those teamwork skills a lot more so you don’t mess up in front of the school.”
Although the repetition of rehearsing songs can be tiring, Harish says that looking back on the experience still leaves a sense of nostalgia.
“In class you’d be like ‘Oh my god this is so tedious’ — you just do more and more music,” Harish said. “But now that I’m a senior and I’m graduating, I’m like ‘aw, oh no.’”
And in college, both Zhao and Harish hope to continue participating in choir — Zhao feels that it’ll help her find a community and de-stress, whereas Harish just hopes to keep music in her life.
“I like singing,” Harish said. “I like music in general and any way to have music as part of my life, I’ll take it.”
THE LAST CURTAIN CALL
Although senior Kayleen Nordyke was always interested in drama, it took four years of rehearsals, shows and cast In-N-Out trips for her to realize its full impact on her life.
“I didn’t realize that acting was more than just acting,” Nordyke. “It’s creativity,.It’s doing something different. It’s extending a part of yourself. It’s very complicated.”
Nordyke recalls the feeling of being backstage before each show.
“That’s one of the moments that I treasure, right before the show,” Nordyke said. “It’s when you have that feeling, and you’re excited and you’re scared and I wish I’d treasured it more.”
Senior Alberto Haro first took drama his junior year, yet after being in only one mainstage drama production, he has found his own passion for theater and creativity.
“It’s exciting, terrifying, a lot of things,” Haro said. “It’s just a huge mix of emotions that you kinda need to just get used to and live in.”
That feeling, the people he’s met and the overall experience of being in drama has indescribably impacted him. He can’t imagine how his senior year would’ve been without drama, and he says that drama has made him feel more confident. Since joining drama, he has decided that his future will involve acting.
“After I did drama, I realized that was something really special,” Haro said. “The experience that I got from drama was really just something that I loved doing and I just love acting ... and I wanted to do that for the rest of my life, that was the feeling that I got … I’ve changed what I’ve wanted to do the second I joined drama.”
For both Nordyke and Haro, the department is special — not just because of the people they met and the things they’ve done, but also because of the way those things shaped them.
“We’ve gotten so close because we spend so much time together, but I feel so much closer to them than other friends,” Nordyke said. “And you know, that’s what drama does. It leaves you vulnerable. And I’m really sad to leave my friends and this department because I personally feel like I’ve put myself in a spot where I’m truly involved and I’m not just just at the sidelines.”