Math major teaches choreography

Paul Watson, Lamp staff

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Mathematical formulae and fancy footwork do not necessarily seem compatible unless you are Skyler Dodson, a Lincoln Land Community College mathematics major and volunteer choreographer for the Lutheran High School drama department.

The drama department presented “Nice Work If You Can Get It” March 22, 23 and 24. Dodson was the main choreographer.

Lora Beavers was director and helped with the choreography. She characterized the musical as a “very heavy dance show.”

The musical farce re-purposed George and Ira Gershwin songs for a new love story that takes place during prohibition in the 1920s. The musical comedy premiered on Broadway in April 2012.

“I am, by no means, a professional dancer,” Dodson said. Her approach kept the dance steps simple for amateur student dancers.

Cara Anderson, an LHS senior and chorus member in the musical, said, “She knew all of our skills and abilities, which helped her figure out the dance moves that everyone could do and do well.”

Dodson used photos and videos to reinforce her instruction and to build confidence. She said the students watched the videos to see where they might make improvements.

Her biggest satisfaction from choreography comes when the dancers can perform the routines without her.

“It makes me really happy to stand in the back and watch the whole thing happen once they get to a point where I don’t have to guide them anymore,” she said. “It’s very satisfying to just see them have fun up there with the choreography.”

Dodson found an opportunity with the big dance number after the intermission for the chorus dancers to choreograph themselves. She decided couples would move back and forth across the stage, evoking a silent-film experience for the audience. The dancers picked their dance partners for this number.

“I told them to come up with a story for their characters, and they actually played the stories throughout the show,” she said.

“We definitely had more couples that took their freedom on that scene to a larger level and some decided to just stay more reserved and just do a simple walk through,” Dodson said. “We had one girl who was dragging a guy across the stage. We had one couple where they did a proposal. We had couples that were arguing and then back to lovey-dovey.”

The cast consisted of 24 students. At one time during the production, Dodson had the entire cast dancing on stage.

Dodson began her musical stage career during her sophomore year as a cast member and an unofficial assistant to the choreographer.

Her big break occurred unexpectedly.

“By senior year, I did the full choreography for the ‘Wizard of Oz,’ and I was also in the show,” she said. “We were supposed to have another professional choreographer come in but she never showed up.”

Beavers said Dodson’s leadership began to emerge during her junior year.

“I asked her when she graduated if she would be willing to come back this year and continue to help us with choreography as our main choreographer, and I was elated when she said that she would,” Beavers said.

Dodson said, “I choreographed the majority of the show, give or take about two or three songs.”

“Skyler makes the work fun, but gets the work done,” Beavers said. “I am not sure we could have put on a production with this much dancing without her. This production had the best choreography we have ever had in a production in my seven years directing at the high school.”

Anderson said Dodson was easy to talk to and caring.

“She was always someone who could relate to us,” she said. “We never had to fake a laugh or a smile. It was genuine because the dancing was so much fun.”

Brett Wagner, an LHS sophomore and vice squad dancer in the musical, said Dodson helped “me be comfortable with myself and have fun dancing.”

The Lutheran High School performs a musical every spring. Dodson plans to volunteer to choreograph its next musical, as well as help with its annual play performance this fall.

Dodson plans to graduate spring 2020 and then transfer to complete her education. She wants to teach mathematics and pick up some music classes so that she can also teach music. She is also the secretary for the LLCC MP3 club.

Dodson said she plays flute, a little bit of piano, some ukulele and harmonica. She said she likes to learn to play the basics, at least, on different instruments. She said she has made the most progress playing the flute.

Dodson appreciates the mathematical structure of music. She said, “I like the patterns.”

Paul Watson can be reached at [email protected]