Dance company performs ‘Moana’s Island Adventure’
DOTHAN, Ala. (AP) — A summer trip to Disney World in Orlando last year so inspired Ashlie Wells that before the movie “Moana” even hit theaters, Wells started working on choreography for a dance production about the strong-willed daughter of a Polynesian chief trying to save her tribe’s island.
“We actually started working on this two, three months before the movie even came out,” said Wells, the co-artistic director for Dothan’s Southeast Alabama Dance Company (SEADAC).
SEADAC will perform “Moana’s Island Adventure” at the Dothan Civic Center on March 12 and at the Enterprise Performing Arts Center on March 19.
For those who haven’t seen the Oscar-nominated movie, 16-year-old Moana is chosen by the ocean to restore the heart of Te Fiti — a stone lost in the ocean after the demigod Maui stole it from the island goddess Te Fiti to give to humanity. With her island’s vegetation dying and fish becoming scarce, Moana sets out to return the heart to Te Fiti. Tagging along is Moana’s pet rooster, Heihei. Moana eventually teams up with Maui to return the heart of Te Fiti.
Some of the movie’s music will be featured in the dance production while some of the show’s instrumental pieces were developed by Wells.
“The company dancers helped me a lot,” Wells said of creating the choreography. “They really inspire me and I’m always asking them questions to help me.”
Like other spring dance productions by SEADAC, the first half — “Moana’s Island Adventure” — lasts about an hour. The second act is filled with six dance numbers, including one inspired by the Broadway play “Hamilton.”
There are a little over 100 cast members on “Moana’s island Adventure” — 31 company dancers, 75-80 non-company performers and about 25 backstage crew members. There’s also some stunt flying for this production as Maui, danced by Joneisha Carmichael, transforms into a hawk.
“Disney is just something that everybody loves and it’s a brand new movie so it’s been a real experience to be able to learn and follow along with the movie,” said Milana Reynolds, one of two dancers performing as Moana.
Reynolds, 17, has been dancing since she was 8 or 9 years old. A senior at Enterprise High School, Reynolds will be a dance major at the University of Alabama after she graduates. Since the character of Moana is on stage during the entire show, the performance is a demanding one, which is why Reynolds and dancer Emily Faught are taking turns dancing the role.
“It’s been so hard,” Reynolds said. “Once we run through the whole thing, I am just exhausted at the end . You have to have a lot of stamina to get through it.”
Mary Hinson Mims is dancing the role of Moana’s pet rooster, Heihei. Her humorous rooster costume with bulging eyeballs is one of many new costumes company costume seamstress Cindi Tucker created for the production.
“It’s been my favorite production I have ever done with SEADAC,” Mary said. “I absolutely love it and love the movie. I personally love how just crazy and fun Heihei is and how much humor he brings to the show because although the movie is serious and inspiring, he brings a lot of the comedy to it.”
In translating a story through dance, Wells said she thinks of the movements as a type of sign language for the audience.
“My goal is to captivate the audience and to make it be a magical experience and to take them on a journey where they feel something special whether it be happiness or love or excitement,” Wells said.
Information from: The Dothan Eagle, http://www.dothaneagle.com