Moorpark College’s dance department presents annual “Speaking Movement” dance concert


Ashlynn Brantingham, Talya Zaken and Lauren Walbeck perform contemporary piece “Over Nothing,” choreographed by Vivian Rangel, at the “Speaking Movement” dress rehearsal on Nov. 16, 2022. Photo credit: Sarah Graue

By Sarah Graue

This month, the Moorpark College Dance Department presented their annual fall dance concert, “Speaking Movement,” to display compelling student routines depicting unity, loss, self-discovery and celebration.

25 student dancers collaborated in artistic expression to bring 12 routines to the Performing Arts Center on Nov. 18 and 19. Artistic Director Beth Megill expressed her passion for implementing new developments to the annual fall performance.

“Our productions are blossoming out to hold space for everybody to shine, and that is really a part of our mission to foster inclusivity and access for all,” Megill said. “We have welcomed the Moorpark College Spirit Team, as well as six student choreographers to pour their hearts and souls out onto our stage.”

A full-time faculty member, Megill said she strives to provide a range of opportunities at the community college level for students to feel successful in their own unique way.

“For some dancers, success is getting on the stage for the first time, for others, it’s choreographing for this amazing beautiful theater that we have, or honing in on their craft so they can go out and audition and be competitive at a four year institution,” Megill explained. “Everyone is working at their maximum and navigating their personal growth within this community.”

Megill’s dance-comedy piece, “Still Working On It” was an audience favorite. The seven-minute routine, performed by theatre major Kyle Kaplan, gave a non-narrative “snapshot” into a clown’s world.

Theatre major Kyle Kaplan performs “Still Working On It,” a dance-comedy piece choreographed by Artistic Director Beth Megill at the “Speaking Movement” dress rehearsal on Nov. 16, 2022.
Theatre major Kyle Kaplan performs “Still Working On It,” a dance-comedy piece choreographed by Artistic Director Beth Megill at the “Speaking Movement” dress rehearsal on Nov. 16, 2022. Photo credit: Sarah Graue

Megill’s passion for live theatre and previous history working as a movement coach for “Electricidad” influenced the decision to bring theatre-centered dance into the showcase.

Lauren Walbeck, a fourth-year dance major, also had the opportunity to arrange a piece for the show. Walbeck explained how choreographing a piece gave her a new outlook on the creative process.

“This is the first time I have ever choreographed a piece for a show, so having a different perspective of the experience is so special,“ Walbeck explained. “From the artistic standpoint, there have been a lot of ups and downs throughout the choreography process, and I give so much credit to my past teachers and choreographers that have helped me overcome those obstacles.”

Walbeck’s high-energy jazz piece “The Great Chase,” told the intense story of thieves trying to steal a prized briefcase from a group of security guards. The routine featured performances from Nicole Carabajal and Kobe Johnson, as well as combat choreography. Walbeck described her passion for performing with other students within the department.

“Performing really grows and nourishes our relationship with the department and builds a sense of trust,” Walbeck said. “What’s nice about Moorpark College is that they offer opportunities for students that want to get into the industry to choreograph for musicals, dance shows and music artists, which helps give them that outlet to build a strong foundation of creativity.”

The show closed with a jazz performance, “Speakeasy,” which featured the complete cast of “Speaking Movement.” Student Assistant Director Samantha Longtin talked about choreographing the final piece of the show, a responsibility that had not been given to a student before.

“I honestly didn’t know that I was the first student to choreograph the group piece until recently,” Longtin explained. “I’m so grateful that Beth, along with the other dance faculty, trusted me to create a dance with so many dancers.”

The lively number was largely inspired by the Jazz Age cultural period. Dancers used numerous props including canes, cups, chairs and hats to capture the bustling party atmosphere of the era.

“I have always loved vintage aesthetic and I grew up listening to jazz and swing music, so I knew that incorporating this would be a fun way to end the show,” Longtin explained. “I wanted it to be bold and bright, and with lots of elements for the dancers.”

More dance performances like the fall showcase are on the horizon. Moorpark College’ dance department is set to host auditions for the spring dance concert on Jan. 20, 2023. For more details on upcoming dance performances and opportunities from the college, click here.