Articles of Interest

Articles of Interest » LA Chapter Community Outreach » Behind the Scenes with Astra Dance Company

Behind the Scenes with Astra Dance Company

Laura Harvell (Laura Harvell is a longtime volunteer with USA Dance Los Angeles County. Laura has completed a teacher training course and donates her services to the local ballroom social "Ballroom by the Bay." In addition, Laura regularly participates in the chapter's Showcase event and is a constant student of dance.)

In 2010, USA Dance L.A. County caught up with chapter member Laura Harvell, who performed in a production of ASTRA, the waltz-ballet and drama produced by our own chapter's Autumn Fawn. Read on for an inside look at her experience.

"Astra" has been a real growth experience for me. I was just expecting to be doing some ballroom dancing - Waltz and Viennese Waltz, but quickly found out that Sasha, our director, wanted us to be actors too. Definitely outside my comfort zone, but a great learning experience!

As part of our practices, we did acting exercises, with the intent of getting to know each other better so that we could interact together more naturally onstage and be a more cohesive cast. Sasha wanted us to use big gestures, movements, faces, etc. to make sure they are noticeable all the way at the back of the theatre. I will never forget her saying as a director, her favorite thing would be to tell someone to tone down their gestures or movements. Each of us had a character name and were expected to be in character the minute we stepped onto the practice floor. Mecca, our creative choreographer, has great vision, and continually pushed us to "move the stage a few feet deeper into the crevices of the earth". She pushed us to take risks that will freak us out a bit.

Both the director (Sasha) and producer (Autumn) were very specific in giving us feedback. I was impressed by their nuance for details. Autumn was the one who created the opportunity for USA Dance members to participate in this dance drama, as well as adding a Waltz lesson and Waltz ball to the Saturday night performances.

David Wilkinson, the creator, writer, & narrator, provided us with a plethora of historical information about the Austrian culture during this time period. I didn't know there is a whole language around kissing the hand, and that the wife chooses another woman to be with her husband, so she can go find another man to dance with and entertain her! R.J., the stage manager, had a big job coordinating all the dancers/actors, and ensuring all the logistics happen. He was our main contact for all correspondence.

Regan Remy composed the beautiful intoxicating music, and entertained many of us back stage with her wit and character.

Overall, I believe all of us ballroom dancers felt honored to be a part of a production with such talented professional dancers and actors, and an amazing creative crew.

-- Laura Harvell

Laura is the dancer at left in a lavender gown in the attached photo. - Ed.