Students at Charlotte’s Jami Masters School of Dance were working hard last weekend in their last few days of rehearsal for “Happy Holidays.” Choreographers led the frenzy as students rushed through the labyrinthine studio to try on costumes and practice.
With less than a week to go until the Saturday, Dec. 14, show, the energy and anxiety in the studio were palpable. Students did their best to hit their marks at performance speed. Some grimaced at the slightest misstep, while others nervously awaited their turns.
Two students in particular exhibited the calm focus of professionals. The talent of 13-year-old Caroline Farley and 15-year-old Sam Faulkner has been recognized at the national level. Both have been cast in renowned shows performed in major U.S. cities.
Farley has danced for 11 years. Two years ago, she traveled to New York for her first big audition, and on her first try landed a part in the national touring company of Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas.” For three months she worked with tutors to keep her schooling current so she could travel from city to city: Memphis, Tenn.; Sioux Falls, S.D.; Detroit, Mich.; Tempe, Ariz.; and Costa Mesa, Calif., to name a few. Farley also had multiple callbacks in New York for the Broadway show “Matilda,” making the final round twice.
Faulkner walked a similar path. In addition to receiving several callbacks for Broadway shows, he had a unique opportunity to star in the beloved film-turned-Broadway production “The Christmas Story.” He was one of four boys who played “Ralphie” on the promotional team representing the Chicago production.
This week, he traveled to New York to audition for an acting role in a film. Last month, Faulkner won the Teen Mister Dance competition at the Carolina Dance Masters and will proceed to nationals in Florida in 2014.
Faulkner even transferred from Charlotte Latin to the George Washington University Online High School program to have flexibility to audition and travel for shows.
“Sam is extremely driven,” said Bo Broadwell, faculty member at Jami Masters School of Dance. Broadwell is the music supervisor and one of eight choreographers working on “Happy Holidays.” “If you tell him he can’t do something, he will prove you wrong.”
Faulkner is the only boy performing in “Happy Holidays,” which features a cast of 101 dancers. Though the cast are all Jami Masters’ students, the event is a not a recital. “Happy Holidays” is a dancing review with a meaningful storyline.
In “Happy Holidays,” an angel comes to earth to find the real meaning of Christmas. Frenetic holiday preparation gives way to hope, love, peace, faith, forgiveness and joy.
“The toy shop scene gets out of control,” Broadwell said. After a high-energy ensemble dance, the “elves” collapse in exhaustion. The scene transitions to a small group of singers who help someone less fortunate on their way home from shopping.
“This scene reminds us that giving of ourselves is just as important as buying gifts,” he added.
“Happy Holidays” features some classic ballet pieces, in addition to a high-energy dance remix of “In a Barbie World/Santa Baby,” a tap dancing march of the toy soldiers a la the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes, vocal performance numbers and a jazzy version of “Winter Wonderland.” The team at Jami Masters School of Dance adds new numbers to keep “Happy Holidays” fresh as the show is in its 18th year.
For Farley, dancing is a family affair; she and her four sisters have grown up at Jami Masters School of Dance. “Happy Holidays” also features Farley’s twin sisters.
“Dancing is all I’ve known,” said
Farley, who hopes to someday make professional performance her full-time career. “I wouldn’t do anything else,” she added.
“This is what I have always wanted,” said Faulkner, who fell in love with performing when he was 3 years old and took the stage at a restaurant during a family vacation. “I plan to work as hard as I can to do what I love to do.”
Catch “Happy Holidays” and see tomorrow’s talent before they hit the big time. “Happy Holidays” will take the Halton Theatre stage at Central Piedmont Community College with two performances, at 1 and 5 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 14. Tickets are $15 for orchestra seating and $13 for balcony seating and can be purchased at CPCC’s website, http://tix.cpcc.edu/. Find more information on Jami Masters School of Dance at www.jamimastersschoolofdance.com.