In a bright and airy dance studio, teenagers pound the wooden floors in a cacophonous rhythm. With the front mirrors covered, the youngsters, in two straight lines, attune themselves to their partners in crime: smiling, stomping, and breaking out into choreographed chatter. The two directors, Kimi Okada and KT Nelson, sit at the front, carefully watching and scribbling notes. But this isn’t a drill team or summer camp–it’s one of the final rehearsals for ODC Dance Jam’s annual performance.

The Dance Jam, comprised of fourteen members ages 13-18, requires passion and dedication. Teens spend each day after school taking classes and rehearsing. They work with well known dancemakers, learn about and contribute to choreography development, and explore different styles of dance. They perform on the weekends and organize the year-end performance, including fundraising, planning, and reaching out to members of the press (aka people like me).

Eden Amital, 15, joined Dance Jam last year as a freshman. After participating in ODC’s summer session, she gravitated towards exploring different types of dance as opposed to just the ballet classes she was used to, so she auditioned for Dance Jam. The heavy commitment is “super consuming,” according to Amital, but thoroughly worth it.

Trying on the all-white costumes for KT Nelson’s “So Much to Do to Save the World,” Amital’s eyes light up with joy. She looks forward to getting onstage, saying, “When it comes to dance, I just don’t get nervous onstage. With anything else, like public speaking–I sing, too, a little bit–but… with dance, it [the nerves] disappears. And I just love performing.”

Participating in ODC’s “The Velveteen Rabbit,” KT Nelson suggested that Kylie Woodward-Sollesnes, 15, audition for Dance Jam. Dancing since a young age, Woodward-Sollesnes enjoys both the performing components of the program as well as the camaraderie amongst her fellow dancers. She says, “We’re a really tight-knit group. We spend so much time together. There’s just a really great bond.”

What: ODC Dance Jam’s “Make the Road By Walking”

Where: ODC Dance Commons, Studio B, 351 Shotwell St @17th Street

When: April 16, 8PM (sold out); April 17, 4PM and 7PM

Tickets: $12/purchase online, or pending availability, at the door

And this bond is evident in rehearsal, as the talented Jammers push themselves through several challenging pieces. These aren’t the cheesy, sparkly tutu, competition dances featuring cartwheels, 180 degree splits, and pasted-on cheshire cat grins. The choreography, like Nol Simonse’s “Spacewalk” and Greg Dawson’s “Outlet 1-2,” focuses on intent, personality, and finding one’s own performance voice within a crowd. Even the youngest of dancers seems utterly aware of her surroundings, and each of the members displays incredibly fluid and organic movement quality.

The ODC Dance Jam offers three performances at the ODC Dance Commons this weekend, in its annual performance entitled “Make the Road By Walking,” featuring works by KT Nelson, Kimi Okada, Bliss Kohlmyer-Dowman, Greg Dawson, Kim Epifano, and Nol Simonse. In addition, the ODC/Dance Company will make an appearance, performing Artistic Director Brenda Way‘s “John Somebody.”

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the author

Becca Klarin writes about dance. Her first stage role was at the age of four, where she dressed in a brightly colored bumble bee tutu and black patent leather taps shoes. She remembers bright lights and spinning in circles with her eleven other bees, but nothing more. Becca also has an affinity for things beginning with the letter "P", including Pizzetta 211, Fort Point, pilates, parsvakonasana, and plies.

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