Neptune Theatre School Brings It

I have been in Halifax for three months and soaking up all the East Coast theatre that I have been able to travel to. I have seen many proficient productions in this time, yet today, in an excruciatingly muggy, sweltering, sticky, wet Sacred Heart School gymnasium with no air conditioning, I saw a piece of theatre that brought me to tears. It was not a professional production; indeed it was not a “production” at all, in the usual sense of that word. It was an end of camp “presentation” staged by Neptune Theatre School’s “Bring It” class featuring the talents of a group of teenagers between the ages of fourteen and eighteen years olds.
Of course, I work at Neptune Theatre School, so I admit a certain amount of pride and, perhaps even bias in touting this particular institution. Yet, I teach the 4-6 year old children and not the 14-18 year olds and therefore I feel confident in my ability to tell you that the achievements of this particular group of students was nothing short of extraordinary. They performed three routines, a haunting stomp number which explored the movements of a group of robots who wanted to be anything but robots, a fantastic and strikingly complicated rhythm piece using found objects, and a hip-hop dance which ended with an extraordinary dance-off which ended with a teenager catapulting himself into a back flip in the air with mind boggling precision and dazzling theatricality. The performance was so impressive that I am certain an audience would have paid to see it.
The choreographers and rhythm leaders of this class are Matthew Amyotte (music/rhythm) and Allison MacDougall (dance) who are two of the most talented and brilliant musical/theatre/dance instructors in Halifax. Amyotte has a brilliant sense and rich knowledge of music, which makes him an extraordinary musical director and rhythm teacher who is able to elicit incredible results from teenagers (some with no prior theatre experience) within a few short days. MacDougall is an expressly creative dancer who choreographs in a wide range of styles and creates pieces that are utterly unique and yet look so sophisticated and gripping that they could have been lifted from a Broadway production. Her teaching methods continually produce sharp, precise performances from her students who tackle the complexity of her movements with flair. Together, Matt and Allison insure that their students always look their best, and have all the tools needed to present themselves with confidence and personality.
Amyotte and MacDougall, I think, have all the expertise needed to have their own stomp/rhythm/hip-hop troupe. They undoubtedly have a talent for working creatively with other performers and molding these individual talents into a strong ensemble. Both Amyotte and MacDougall are fantastic performers in their own right, Amyotte stunned me when he played King Ubu in Alfred Jarry’s Ubu Roi at DalTheatre in 2005, and MacDougall was delightful in Halifax Theatre for Young People’s The Gravesavers earlier this summer. Neptune Theatre School, directed by the incomparable Samantha Wilson, with a summer staff including Amyotte, MacDougall, Kaleigh Heide, Kirk Hall, Lise Cormier, Jessica Barry, Adam Bayne, Meghan Hubley, Dan Wheeler, Krista Lane, Kristin Slaney, Kristin Innes, (when we’re lucky) John Han, and me, is a vibrant, creative, positive place that nurtures the talents and enthusiasm of hundreds of children between the ages of four and eighteen every summer. It’s a place where five year olds’ eyes light up in wonder for pixie dust, where teenagers cheer for elementary schoolers, Lost-and-Found time is anticipated with fervor, ten to thirteen year olds write their own plays, and our brief encounters with individual children leave lasting handprints on our hearts. My tears today are proof that Neptune Theatre School enriches the lives of those lucky enough to pass through its doors. It is a legacy I am so proud to belong to.

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