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Teen critic Julliard on ‘Footloose’: Dance revolution

Eleven Charlotte-area high school students are competing in the new theater criticism category of the Blumey Awards, the Blumenthal Performing Arts’ annual musical theater awards program (read more about that here .) Each student writes three reviews; the following is one entry:

By Michael Julliard

Being artists, performers have freedoms for self-expression that are out of reach for most people. Personally, I don’t know what I would do if these outlets were taken away from me. Consequently, my March 17 assignment harped on just this idea. Based on the original screenplay by Dean Pitchford, “Footloose” is the edgy musical of Chicago new kid Ren who, along with his single mother, tries to find his place in a small religious town. And the worst part: dancing, Ren’s passion, is illegal. With an Oscar and Tony Award-nominated score, “Footloose” uses the captivating story of a middle-class teenager struggling without his father figure coupled with a free-spirited preacher’s daughter to prove to the world that youth culture has real issues to overcome. It speaks of fairly distributing authority, celebrating individuality, and respecting youth while keeping an audience on their feet with a rocking soundtrack.

I was very excited to attend this particular musical for several reasons. For starters, I have competed with Northwest School of the Arts for several years and I looked forward to viewing “Footloose” from a non-competitive perspective. Also, many of my friends were in this show and I always love to watch them perform. Finally, “Footloose” just happens to be my favorite movie musical and I hadn’t seen it live onstage. Thus, with pencil and pad in hand, I set off for the beautiful Halton Theater with gusto.

It was no surprise to see that this school would be a strong Blumey contender given their dance ability. What amazes me about NWSA is their natural confidence in musical theater and dance performances. Their dance program is phenomenal; you ask them to do a pirouette, they ask you how many. The problem with this confidence, however, is that one can fall short of dancing full-out when performing a show. Several times during the performance, there was a serious lack of “showface” that turned this audience member off. The occasional muted facial expressions and lack of physical passion made me wonder if some dancers neglected to think about the purpose behind the dancing.

I close with some constructive criticism. As effective a dramatic pause is for the audience, I often wondered if lines were dropped or the pace simply needed to be picked up. Speaking of pace, much of the acting seemed to stay at a static level. Not that this level was boring, but I would have liked to see more ranges beyond normal speaking and shouting during the fighting scenes.

Thus was my experience from NWSA. One hears many glory stories of the young performers from the school, but I encourage you to actually go and see an NWSA show for yourself. All around our community, evidence of the talents of these innovative students shines bright on stage, and backstage. Kudos to Northwest School of the Arts for another fantastic show!

This article is part of the Charlotte Arts Journalism Alliance (a consortium of local media dedicated to writing about the arts) and the Blumenthal Student Critic Program.

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The Charlotte Observer welcomes your comments on news of the day. The more voices engaged in conversation, the better for us all, but do keep it civil. Please refrain from profanity, obscenity, spam, name-calling or attacking others for their views.

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