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Once again I was privileged to be asked to review Vita Artes Summer Showcase.  A wonderful concept brought about by co-owners Katie Ross and Alex Wheeler to engage the youth of Luton, whereby they do not have to pay for their classes, and everything is supported by fundraising, sponsors and ticket sales.

As the numbers have undoubtedly grown over the last year, the Principals have enlisted the help of young people who have attended classes, by getting them involved in the production and choreographic elements, which increases their confidence in themselves, and encourages them to lead and give back to the newer recruits.  The six young ladies who assisted Katie all took part as well, and lead the younger members into participating fully, they were Tasha Wolfe, Zaynab Shahid, Xhuljeta Stafa, Habibah Miah, Nicola Clarke and Allanah Rogers, who all led by example, lovely to see.

I was able to see the improvement in young people who I saw last year, and enjoy the newer people, some as young as 6, who were confident and assured on stage, it also teaches them discipline in certain areas, all of which is a background that can only help them in life generally.  I hope these youngsters will also consider looking at joining some of the amateur societies in Luton and Dunstable, where they will get further stage experience in productions where they can exercise their talents.

I liked that fact that all the young ladies had a hairdo that allowed them to wear their hair down, but for the most part kept it tidy and off their faces, as so much of a performance is down to facial expressions.  Costumes were colourful, but needed some attention with an iron to make them look really fresh.  

Another small point was makeup – for a dance show where everything else was uniform, this was not – perhaps a point for next time!

Everyone gave great enthusiasm and energy to the ensemble numbers, with lots of expression in their faces, but I would say that in a couple of the slower numbers it is important to remember that eyes tell the story even if the face is more solemn.  I was particularly impressed with Zaynab Shahid, her solo at the end of Act 2 was lovely, and Tasha Wolfe’s solo to close the first section of Act 2 was very expressive and poignant.

It was nice to see Katie involved in a couple of the numbers, just to show parents and performers alike that she is a force to be reckoned with both on and off stage.

The music was well chosen, but I felt it was sometimes a little loud, and we lost some of the soloists especially at the beginning because their mics weren’t turned on or up, which was a great shame, as I understand the youngsters had auditioned for solo parts, and for them not to be heard to their full potential must have been galling.  Well done to Harry Brereton for bringing the music together, and the lighting and stage teams.  Alex Wheeler designed the lighting, which was effective and suitable throughout.

It was good to see two lads, both of whom really gave their all and enjoyed every moment they had on stage.  Well done Jaiden Dosanjh (who is only 6) and Asad Akkash, who performed particularly well in his duet with Khairah Mannan, another young lady who has good performance skills.

There were some lovely voices on show, with well chosen numbers, I was impressed by Can’t Help Falling in Love sung a capella, some lovely harmonies, but don’t forget the eyes ladies!!

Krista Garmonsway connected with the audience well in her solo, with good diction.  Olivia Lynn also performed well throughout.

Choreography was good – combining modern with lyrical and acrobatic elements, armography was good too, very sharp and precise.

I liked the calm quiet start to Act 2 from Dani John, who also showed good gymnastic skills in other numbers.  Allanah Rogers joined in, then the ensemble, building the momentum, nicely achieved.

The start of the finale section was also very effective from the performers and also choreographically, with the foot stamping adding atmosphere, culminating in a high energy finale which left us all feeling good and leaving on a high.

The Carnival Arts Centre is perhaps not the most audience/performance friendly venue, but everyone made the best of it, and all credit to those people who ran around making sure there was water for everyone and that everything ran smoothly.

Thank you Katie and Alex for inviting me again this year, I was impressed by the improvement in standard and content, and loved seeing young people so enthused and confident when performing in this wonderful pastime we call the performing arts and amateur theatre.

Vita Artes Academy

SUMMER SHOWCASE 2018” date: 6th July 2018

Carnival Arts Centre, Luton

Principal & Director: Katie Ross


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