It's Happening: "Dance of Hope" Returns to the Stage as Rachel Reppert Pays Tribute to Mother Maria

By Julie Perine on May 03, 2017 from It’s Happening via Connect-Bridgeport.com

When Alicia Kinsey choreographed “Dance of Hope,” she felt her mother’s presence, as well as her blessing on the passion project. The piece was written to be performed by the 2015 Bridgeport High School Dance Ensemble to Birdy's “Not About Angels (The Fault in Our Stars).”
 
I remember how our good friend "Kinsey” – who aspired to pay tribute to cancer victims everywhere - put so much heart and soul into designing each series of movements. She was first inspired to create the dance toward the end of her mom Lisa Smolder’s bravely-fought, four-year battle with the devastating disease and finished it just days after she died in January of 2015.
 
"She fought an amazing fight," Kinsey told me two years ago. "She fought so hard; not for herself, but for her family. She was an amazing woman to love her family that much and to suffer for so long."
 
That year, the BHS Dance Ensemble performed the piece in Charleston at both the West Virginia Dance Festival and Arts Alive, hosted by the West Virginia Department of Education. The student dancers received rave reviews for the emotion the performance brought, as well as their well-executed, synchronized, flowing movements.
 
Two years later, only one of those dancers remain on the BHS Dance Ensemble and that is senior, Lindsay Knight. When it came time to prepare  for this year’s Arts Alive program - which includes application and a video submission for consideration - she and Mrs. Kinsey already had an idea in motion: To bring back “Dance of Hope” and ask Rachel Reppert to take the lead role.
 
Like Mrs. Kinsey, Rachel lost her mom to cancer. And like her dance teacher, Rachel could utilize dance to tell a story and share that story – one of grief and suffering, but also hope and beauty – with all who watched.
 
Rachel graciously accepted and said she would be honored to perform the lead in the dance not only for her mother, Maria, but for Lisa Smolder and countless others who bravely battled cancer. For quite some time, the girls and their teacher worked to perfect the piece. It starts with Rachel alone at center stage, soon to be supported and uplifted by her fellow dance ensemble members. The dancers begin the number dressed in white – representing angelic pureness and goodness – and as the dance progresses, an explosion of color erupts; each dancer appearing with scarves in every color of the rainbow; each representing a specific type of cancer.
 
After the ensemble’s performance Friday night at the Clay Center for Arts & Sciences, there were lots of tears. A group of special girls shared an incredible experience.
 
“It meant a lot to me to be featured in this dance,” Rachel said. “Having a personal connection with the theme made it very humbling to be able to portray the battle that many people go through with cancer. I was honored to bring the story to life and represent those who have been affected by it.”
 
Kinsey, who had said back in 2015 that putting energy and effort into the choreography of the dance helped her mourn in a healthy way, said she couldn’t be more proud of Rachel.
 
“She honored her mom and her family with dignity and poise on the stage,” she said.
 
Maria Reppert was always supportive of Kinsey and her dance ensemble. And as all who knew her an attest, she loved her family so very much and poured her heart and soul into whatever they aspired to do. She was in the audience when the girls performed the piece in 2015. Her daughter Sarah was then one of the dancers.
 
Maria passed away Sept. 6, 2016. She, too, courageously battled cancer for four years.
 
No one should have to face cancer and no one can explain the hardships and struggles it brings. But we can, Kinsey said, hope for a cure to erase all the suffering. 
 
Rachel Reppert stepped out to express that very hope. Supporting her from the audience were her sister Sarah and dad Cliff.
 
Members of this year's BHS Dance Ensemble are Lindsay Knight, Autumn Fiest, Rachel Reppert, Jaryn Doddrill, Taylor Frame, Victoria Catania, Sophia Lopez, Sarah Momen, Madison Hess, Alexis Miller, Megan Murray, Kaylee Smith, Amiya Tennant and Myiah Snyder. 
 
See "Dance of Hope" at the Arts Alive video below (at the 19.07 minute marker). The BHS Dance Ensemble was honored to open this year's show. 
 
Julie Perine can be reached at 304-848-7200, ext. 2 or julie@connect-bridgeport.com. More "It's Happening" - a September 2016 blog paying tribute to Maria Reppert, can be read HERE



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