Clairton takes CHANCE to big stage
By Jennifer R. Vertullo
Published: Thursday, Oct. 24, 2013, 4:21 a.m.
Clairton students will creep onto the Kelly Strayhorn Theater stage in blood-stained, tattered clothing to perform the theatrical dance piece “Zombiji” as part of Halloween Mayhem 2013.
Clairton City School District's CHANCE club — the name stands for Creating Hope and Newfound Courage Everywhere — started in 2008 as a community service group that raised funds for local charities through annual dance performances and other school activities.
Director Trevor Miles, a Clairton graduate who was part of the club during high school, is back in the picture, choreographing dances that wowed local audiences last month during Clairton's CommUNITY Day.
Miles is helping students hone their talent and creativity at all grade levels. Once limited to high school students, CHANCE now welcomes middle and even elementary kids.
While younger students don't take part in every performance, they are having fun and learning from upperclassmen during practice sessions and community appearances.
The club boasts 40 members, 13 of whom will perform on Saturday at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater in Pittsburgh's East Liberty neighborhood for the theater's fifth annual Halloween program.
“Zombiji,” which Miles says is Swahili for zombie, is the perfect fit for Halloween. With a stiff opening stance, dancers quickly transform into fluidly moving monsters whose mannerisms hint at the macabre.
“You are being a character,” sixth-grader Iyauna Chapman said. “You have to act. It's fun. You take on a whole new life like you're coming back from the dead.”
Classmate Aliyah Leicht said the performance depends on dancers' ability to convey their characters.
“You have to bring out the emotion of your dance,” she said. “The character has to come through you ... in your movements, in your face.”
Freshman Jackie Miles said “Zombiji” is sure to entertain.
“It's fun and a little creepy,” she said. “It really tests our ability.”
Clairton students will share the stage with other regional dance troupes in a program that includes performances, games, puppets, a costume parade and a guest appearance by actor David Newell, portraying Mr. McFeely of “Mister Rogers' Neighborhood” fame.
“I want our group to perform outside of Clairton,” Miles said. “This puts us on the map and gets us out into the Pittsburgh dance community. We don't just dance in the cafeteria anymore.”
Jennifer R. Vertullo is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-664-9161 ext. 1956, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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