HARLINGEN — The girls in their colorful costumes leaped into the air, arms waving, bodies twisting in a sort of feline spell, hands out like paws swatting each other.
Another leap and they fell flat on their feet in classical cat fashion, crouching, eyeing each other.
It was a magical moment of aggression and grace as the 10 high school girls practiced the “Cat Fight” number for their performance of “Jellicle” tonight.
This is the first dance performance presented by students in the dance track of the Harlingen Performing Arts Conservatory. The performance consists of music from the Broadway musical “Cats.”
Faculty and students all seemed excited about the performance.
“We have great artists here,” said MarKeith Scott, director.
“The students are learning how to become the feline cats that we need in this show with projects and lighting in the set,” he said. “We put all that together and create an experience the family can enjoy.”
The students have been working on this for only a month. How did they get it so quickly?
“We’ve been watching cats and just knowing what we’ve seen in movies and the actual musical,” said Adonai Martinez, 17, a senior at Harlingen High School South.
“I think for most of us we’ve really just been trying to find a balance between slow and soft movements and aggressive movements,” she said.
The students also had the advantage of three guest artists working with all the dancers at the conservatory: Jamie Thompson and Eddy Cavazos from New York City and Reegan Haynes from Los Angeles. Thompson and Haynes also gave two-hour master classes on a Saturday and those were open to the public.
“How it works is we bring them in and they work with the dancers Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays,” said Lee Ann Ince, instructional coach for Speech, Drama and Debate for the Harlingen school district.
The guest artists helped the dancers with style and technique, exposing them to more dance moves to expand their talent. And the music from “Cats” has accommodated that exposure.
“Cat Fight is one number, then there’ll be another number ‘Memory,’ which is a beautiful ballad from Cats, and they’re going to do a pointe routine with that, a ballet,” Ince said. “And there’s some more, too, Glamour, Mischief, Playful, Nine Lives. Those are all different pieces.”
McKenna Burns, 14, was enjoying the experience.
“I like the characters and the acting,” said McKenna, a student at the Dr. Abraham P. Cano Freshman Academy.
Even so, it has presented its challenges. How did she learn to move like a cat?
“Definitely, just like studying cats and understanding, learning different ways to act like a cat, not just clawing,” she said. “Just learning the choreography and putting it together was definitely difficult but I think we worked as a team. It’s definitely a lot of trial and error, seeing what works, what doesn’t.”
The students have become better dancers through this challenge, said Jellicle choreographer Eleann Villarreal.
“They’re growing as artists, and they’re getting to exercise and relate it to their activity,” Villarreal said. “They’re getting to find ways to portray different characters, in this case a cat. So maybe they’ve never had to do that before.”
If You Go
WHEN: Today, 8 p.m.
WHERE: HCISD Performing Arts Center
3217 Wilson Road
ADMISSION: $5 for students
$10 for adults
TICKETS: Tickets can be purchased at the door or at www.hcisdpa.org
Lianah Robles, 14, Cano Freshman Academy
Lillian Lamon, 14, Cano Freshman Academy
Candace Cavazos, 14, Cano Freshman Academy
Alexa St. John, 14, Cano Freshman Academy
McKenna Burns, 14, Cano Freshman Academy
Adonai Martinez, 17, senior at Harlingen South
Hailey Alejandro, 16, a junior at Harlingen South
Jacquelin Welch, 15, a sophomore at Harlingen South
Katya Gonzales, 17, a senior at Harlingen South