Hood River Valley High School theater students tackled a video project this spring that proved they are “together” even when a worldwide pandemic drove them all “apart.”
“Together Apart” is a 15-minute dance video conceived and directed by longtime theater teacher Rachel Harry that weaves separate dance elements by 10 students (and many of their pets) into one cohesive routine.
The students — Max Spears, Leah DeBorde, Sierra Lavoie, Dulce Nagera, Kaila Macedo, Katie Zeman, Madisyn Quary, Catie Shuster, Lucy Hagar and Ivy Diessner — chose the group assignment from a variety of course offerings, mostly individual, when the Hood River County School District moved to distance learning in April.
“The students who selected this course understood that they had to spend extra time on the project, that they had a time-frame they had to stick with, and they had to be willing to redo work if it wasn’t what we needed,” Harry said. “This is normal rehearsal stuff, but putting it into an online frame is extremely difficult.”
Harry has students of every ability in her classes, and she understood that stress levels would vary depending on household situations.
“When we went to online instruction, we knew a couple of things: One, it takes twice as long to do an assignment online; two, kids will be coping with this whole new situation in different ways and their anxiety and stress could be overwhelming,” she said. “Three, not all students will be able to have set hours for group meetings online, as they might also have to take care of siblings; and four, their job might be the only one supporting the family if their parents were laid off.”
This particular assignment was the most intensive, as neither Harry nor her students knew if her instructions had been fully understood until after she received back their recorded work at the end of each week.
“It was a steep learning curve,” she said. “They learned to ask questions quickly once receiving the instructions, just to make sure they were on the right track. I learned I can’t fill a page with directions as they just stop reading after a while.”
The music, written by professional composer Duncan Krummel, hadn’t been written yet, so Harry had students dance to Aretha Franklin’s “Dr. Feelgood” and Louis Prima’s “Sing Sing Sing” to keep them on tempo. Tay Lynne, a film student at the University of Utah, edited the piece.
“Tay’s experience and knowledge of the professional film editing program we used was imperative,” Harry said. “Duncan took this film and somehow wove together the different themes so that the piece became cohesive.” (Krummel also did the composing for Michael Peterson’s award-winning documentary, “Dammed to Extinction.”)
“My brain tends to the physical comedy, so I knew we were going to somehow deviate into buffoonery and then come back to my theme of life in quarantine,” Harry said. “We are apart, but we are still connected. Together Apart.”