News Column

A colorful journey

August 4, 2014

By Gary Demuth, The Salina Journal, Kan.

Aug. 04--A colorful journey

By GARY DEMUTH Salina Journal -- Monday, August 04, 20142:00 AM

Choreographers, dancers draw inspiration from colors for dance program this week


Choreographers, dancers draw inspiration from colors for dance program this week

For dancer/choreographer Samantha Shirack, the color blue means trust.

So when she began developing a dance routine based on that perception, she thought of the trust and loyalty that bonds women.

"I wanted to show how trust can be broken, but how these women can go back to being friends again," she said.

Shirack set her "blue" routine to the song "Trouble is a Friend," by the singer Lenka, and recruited three local dancers -- Brenna Downs, Erin Gallion and Shawna Carter -- to bring her vision to life.

"Sam changed it from two women to three to form this friendship triangle where two are close and one is on the outside," Downs said. "It's a challenge, but I love my little group."

A Chromatic Journey

Downs is one of 22 dancers in a summer show presented by the Iron Street Dancers, the adult dance performance company at Salina Community Theatre, 303 E. Iron.

This summer's show, the fourth staged by the company under the direction of veteran dance teacher/choreographer Peggy Simms, is called "Linked: A Chromatic Journey."

The show's theme is color and how it affects our lives and evokes emotions, Simms said.

"The dancers will not be dressed in bright colors but rather muted tones," she said. "Colors were used to inspire the choreographers to create pieces."

"Linked: A Chromatic Journey" runs Friday through Sunday in the Sunflower Financial Theatre at Salina Community Theatre.

Five choreographers

About 15 different dance routines were created around the theme of color by five choreographers: Shirack, Suzy Weller, Simeon Rawls, Jena Simms and Chaz Coberly (who also composed original music for his pieces).

Simms directs the show with creative assistance from local dancers and choreographers Alison Hiatt and Rachel Stroer. Professionals David Ollington, professor of dance at Kansas State University, and Amiti Perry, a Texas-based dancer and choreographer, were recruited to help. Perry is choreographing the last dance segment in the show to tie all of the pieces together.

The online color test

The five main choreographers staged up to three dance segments based on colors that appealed most to them. To help them choose their colors, Simms instructed cast and choreographers to take an online color test at

"The color test tells you about your personality," she said. "You have a grid of colors, and you rate them as to what you're feeling when you look at them. The choreographers selected the colors that inspired them."

The meaning of color

Shirack's colors were blue, yellow and white. For blue, she said, "I wanted to do something light, something that would relax the audience as they were watching it."

Shirack performed her "blue" piece in front of Ollington, who had come to Salina recently to teach a community dance improvisation class and watch a couple of the show's works in progress.

Moving with the music

Ollington said he was impressed with Shirack's clear depiction of movement in the dance space but felt it sometimes was predictable when timed with the music.

"Maybe you shouldn't have them dance to the phrasing of the music," he said. "Maybe it's six bars of this or two bars of that. You don't always need to be moving with the music. Rhythms don't need to necessarily match the music."

Shirack said she saw value in changing the rhythms -- if she only had the time.

"I only have one more rehearsal, and I'm scared of changing a thing," she said.

Ollington, who talked to dancers and choreographers during last summer's dance show, said he was glad to assist.

"I help them do what they can do to improve in the time they have for rehearsal," he said.

A unique company

That a dance company such as the Iron Street Dancers can flourish at a community theater in a town Salina's size is unique, Ollington said.

"They have a strong commitment to excellence here," he said. "And by doing a show like this every summer, the quality is increasing."

Perry said all the dancers and choreographers were open to new experiences.

"They have a vast range, not only of men and women but of ages," she said. "It's just fantastic and unique. There's a sense of community here and not competitiveness."

Perry will return this week to help put the show together "and see if they have any last-minute issues, so we can create a seamless show."

Sketching the dancers

Additionally, Bennington artist Debbie Wagner and the Kansas Figure Drawing Group will visit rehearsals and sketch dancers during rehearsals. Their work will be displayed in the Salina Community Theatre lobby during performances.

Salina photographer Carol Roker also will be capturing images throughout the rehearsal process and exhibiting her work in the lobby.

Continuing to improve

Now directing her fourth summer dance show, Simms said it is thrilling to see dancers continue to improve and for new choreographers to have a chance to be creative in a safe, nurturing environment.

"It's an opportunity for choreographers to get their point of views out to the audience," she said. "We're here giving helpful advice, but we want it to be their work."

-- Reporter Gary Demuth can be reached at 822-1405 or by email at


(c)2014 The Salina Journal (Salina, Kan.)

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Source: Salina Journal (KS)

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