South Gwinnett dance show is out of the box


Nylah Richburg, Online Editor

“I always try to look for different things to do to inspire audiences, inspire my students.” The Artistic Director of Dance, Ms. Shelly Collins kept this thought in mind as she drafted up ideas for the theme for her fall show. “Out The Box” came from a conversation that Ms. Collins had with her coaching staff, Lea Nelson and Chelsea Warren, 2013 and 2014 alumni of South Gwinnett. Ms. Collins recalls telling her staff “We really need to think outside of the box”. This statement sparked the beginning of an entire show, defining the box as essentially, the inside of Ms. Collins’ brain. Every song in the showcase touched on a different aspect of her life as a mother, a teacher, a wife, a woman, and a woman of color. The performances spoke about her bubbly personality, survival, and the serious topics that people turn a blind eye towards. The concert was a blend of these topics that communicated what goes on in the mind of Ms. Collins, her dancers, and her audiences.

In one of the first dances, “Spark” choreographed by Ms. Collins, the audience was taken inside an insane asylum. The dancers wore a white v-neck tee shirt, white soffe shorts, white knee-high socks, and the lead dancer wore a white button-up shirt that was tied to form a straight jacket. “The insane asylum honestly and truly has to deal with not being able to vocalize how I feel or how I see things in a safe space.” As we undergo experiences, we often don’t have a shoulder to lean on because everyone depends on us. All of Ms. Collins’ emotions and situations are in this asylum, but she knows that she’s not crazy. Despite how she feels, there are factors conditioning her to believe that she is wrong. As the lead dancer tried to escape, knowing that what she says and feels is valid and making sense, the other patients were piling against her and drowning her in the place. “You can escape, but you have to make the choice to escape regardless of what is chasing you. You can’t change if you’re not willing to go through the emotional process of shifting.”

In beautiful flowy sundresses, the dancers, with choreography by Lea Nelson, expressed a topic that many people can relate to: a “Quick” relationship. In the song, Jill Scott discusses a relationship, specifically romantic, in which she invested a lot of time that was over within the blink of an eye. “The idea of the relationship ending abruptly when you thought things were smooth sailing was very relational to people in my life, inside and outside of work.” Ms. Collins sees these same types of relationships in her daughters’ lives as they grow, especially as high school students. She recognizes these experiences in their lives that they have not seen yet because they’re young. As she listens to them when they’re going through situations, she finds it to be parallel to what she was already thinking. Her daughters’ progression into young women can lead to the end of relationships. It takes strength to realize that it’s not your fault, but that that person just wasn’t ready for that type of relationship.

We can’t forget the “Pump It Up” routine choreographed by Chelsea Warren. The dancers had balloons and wore rainbow tops and socks, ruffled collars, red noses, tutus, and face paint. While the dance was very entertaining, it too had a deeper meaning behind it. In some relationships, we put in way more than we should trying to please others, making ourselves look foolish or like clowns. “While you’re working super hard to achieve these goals, they’re not even paying attention.” This is parallel to the insane asylum, but it is particular to different types of relationships that you can encounter in your life.

Lastly, we have the grand finale which featured all of the performers and choreographers of the show. This finale was very special because it is the first one that has been done since the “Land of Oz” show in 2017. The dancers entered the stage and the aisles in their 70’s inspired outfits and rocked out the famous “Stayin’ Alive” by Bee Gees. “We do a lot of surviving.” Ms. Collins dug into the PTSD from the Covid-19 pandemic, specifically on the teacher’s side. They have been hyper-focused on making sure that their future is secured with young people, but just like students, teachers have had rough experiences too. We often find ourselves in survival mode but like the lyrics of the song, Ms. Collins upholds the idea of staying alive and having fun in the midst of all the chaos. “Out of all of these things that have come out of my head, I am still here.”