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Youthful performers close out Perry-Mansfield season

Demille tribute planned

One of the most fun pieces you’ll experience at this weekend’s Perry-Mansfield end-of-summer program is inspired by famous choreographer Agnes DeMille and her time spent at the school and socializing with local cowboys.

“Back in the ‘30s, she came to Perry-Mansfield and being a city girl from New York, she hadn’t heard of square dances or hoedowns,” said Cindy DuFault, choreographer of this weekend’s show,

DeMille — related to famous filmmaker Cecil B. DeMille — soon incorporated what she learned on the historical Carpenter Ranch near Hayden into some of her most famous creations like the ballet “Rodeo” and Broadway musicals “Oklahoma!” and “Paint Your Wagon.”

After dancing and studying all week, young artists like DeMille would head out to the Carpenter Ranch on weekends to let off some steam. That’s where they learned about square dancing and other western-style dancing.

“Our piece really incorporates the Carpenter Ranch idea,” DuFault said.

In fact, the show opens with a short bio of DeMille on a big screen at the back of the stage, while the young dancers are silhouetted against pictures of a ranch. Soon, the stage turns into a delightful ballet of the “American West.” DuFault’s choreography invokes Americana throughout, and there’s even a sad cowboy left in the dust after his true love abandons him for another cowboy.

“This is one of the unique pieces that goes to the heart of Perry-Mansfield,” said the camp’s Executive Director Nancy Engelken, pointing out that DuFault used dancers, musicians, singers, actors and visual artists in creating the DeMille tribute.

— After four weeks of intense summer classes and workshops, a group of teenage performers from all over the country will allow audiences into the mind of the adolescent through a provocative piece they developed at the Perry-Mansfield Arts School and Camp.

"Even though it might make a few people uncomfortable, it's important to understand what it's like to be a teenager in 2016," said Julane Havens, director of the Young Artist intensive program at Perry-Mansfield.

The theater piece is just one part of the two-hour Young Artists Collective Evening of Theatre and Dance, which also features dances developed by Perry-Mansfield teachers and choreographers. Performances will be offered at 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday in the camp’s main studio.

The summer intensive program pushes teenagers not only physically, but mentally.

"They're starting to see what they're capable of," said Christopher Compton, Perry-Mansfield co-director of dance.  

The dance pieces are very challenging, and none of the pieces are "young" people pieces," Havens said. The troubled adolescent piece was written and perfected from the point of view of the kids themselves.

Teacher and songwriter Thomas Hodges gave them three songs and a theme to build on — "Things We Never Say." The pieces deal with everything from puberty to bullying.

"It's a window into their souls, and it's not a cliché," Havens said. "If you want to know what the next generation is thinking and feeling … they've been so honest and open."

During this week's rehearsal, the young actors were often acting out their real life stories.

These performances will give audiences a glimpse into the lives of modern-day teens through theatre and music.  

Tickets can be ordered online at http://www.perry-mansfield.org.