The Albany Academies 2021 Wassail Preview
Wassail is one of the Albany Academies’ biggest art event, which takes place in December every school year. In a typical school year, the lower, middle, and upper school boys and girls perform, whether it be chamber singers, choir, band, or dance. However, this year, due to Covid-19 restrictions, choirs and bands have performed virtually and in-person events are primarily focused on dance. The events are as follows:
Lower School Boys: December 3
Virtual Chorus and Band: December 8
ECA: December 10
AAG Lower School: December 15 at 2:20
AAG Middle and Upper School: December 15 at 5:30
I interviewed Ms. Eve Whelchel, the dance instructor at AAG, for information on the preparation process as well as specifics on the performances themselves.
1. Which grades are you working with and what types of performances are you preparing with the students?
I work with the Preschool class as well as AAG grades Pre-kindergarten through sixth grade. However, Mrs. Jacob Zysman (dance instructor for grades 7-12) and I have a very collaborative relationship. We work closely together to make sure the performances represent our academy dancers at their best.
We are presenting the dance performances at three shows, which are the ECA, Lower School, and Middle and Upper School Wassail Performances.
2. What are some key aspects (highlights) of each of the performances?
This year we had the opportunity to change the format of our dance offerings. In the past only a couple of grades danced at the Wassail. We are excited that every grade who participates in dance will be performing in December. We are looking forward to maintaining this new standard in the future.
3. Do any of your performances relate to or come from specific cultures or traditions?
Our primary foundation is modern dance and ballet. However, over the past year, the students have been introduced to different dance styles such as: Indian dance, Flamenco, Native American Dance and folk dance. When choreographing our pieces we drew inspiration from all that we have learned.
4. What were some difficulties you’ve encountered but persevered through while preparing the performances?
Choreographing a dance piece is always a process that takes time and patience, because you are creating something new. When choreographing for children, I have a certain vision in mind, but it is important to remember that alterations may need to be made. It is always my mission to help my dancers feel prepared, confident, and enthusiastic about performing.
5. Were there any special difficulties preparing the performances due to Covid-19 restrictions (or anything related to Covid-19)?
Yes. Covid-19 has left a big impact on the arts. Learning to dance in masks has been an adjustment. Not only because it is more restrictive but also because our expressions are not visible. Our dancers are working hard to put even greater emphasis on movement quality to accomodate for our inability to show our facial expressions.
In the performing arts, you have to be ready to adapt quickly when circumstances change! This past week we have had to restructure several dances due to quarantines, but I am confident the dancers’ hard work and preparation will show!
6. Are there any general comments you would like to say to the students you have been working with?
It is a pleasure to teach dance at the Academies. I enjoy watching all of our dancers move up through the ranks of our program.
I am proud of all that my students have accomplished and thankful that I get to pass down the art form that I love to the next generation.
7. Are there any other plans or ideas you are thinking about doing next year?
We are always thinking of ways to take our programming to the next level. Mrs. Jacob-Zysmen and I have a couple big projects in the works including: a dance/science collaboration with ECA, a Chinese dance workshop for lower and middle school and a spring arts residency with a professional dance company.