Troupe honors World War II veterans

Sean McAlindin

The lights drop. Five soldiers stand alone on a darkened stage. As the music begins they take each other’s hands and come together as one.

“Hold on to me … cause I’m a little unsteady,” X Ambassador’s Sam Harris sings over a lone synthesizer.

Silver Linings Winter Performance
Dec. 7 | 6:30 p.m. | $5-$10 | Resort at Squaw Creek | Olympic Valley

The soldiers float in slow motion, clinging on desperately as they are pulled apart by mysterious, unseen forces. They march in jump step to the beat, then fall together in the shape of a boat, rocking back and forth to the building rhythm like brave, young Americans preparing to land at Normandy. They release hands and burst into dynamic movement; guns cock, snipers fire and hands go to hearts for the courage to leap.

Watch a performance of “Stand Alone Together”

Throughout the choreography of Kassidy Commendatore’s “Stand Alone Together,” there is a sense of the dancers being pushed and pulled by forces far greater than themselves. Both the drastic circumstances and the soldiers’ uncontrollable emotions move violently and unpredictably as if they were mere leafs courageously drowning in the cruel current of a war’s whirlpool. There is now an effort to bring the performance to the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, La.

“If you love me … don’t let me go,” Harris sings during the piece and then suddenly to the thud of the bass drum, a soldier goes down.

The others quickly surround her, but soon rear back. Their faces covered in agony, they sway in helpless grief. Blowing forlorn kisses in time, the soldiers twirl away across the stage as their friend is pulled away offstage.

Another goes down. Her beloved comrade lunges for her, yet a moment too late. Undone by anguish, her mates hold her up until, flailing and stumbling, she reemerges in heroic flight, only to fall herself in a flash of light.

The remaining duo spins and slips, flips and tumbles as their lost comrades rejoin them on the sides of the stage now dressed in white. In the concluding sequence of pirouettes and lifts, they come together once more, grunts and the fallen angels dancing in perfect harmony. The last two kneel in embrace about to give up their final breath when the angels pull them back up to give them hope. In the end, the survivors limp offstage arms round each other staggering into the darkness.

Commendatore’s interest in the “Band of Brothers” led her to travel in their footsteps during the summer before her senior year at Truckee High School.

“I was inspired to choreograph this piece by the brave soldiers who fought in World War II,” says the choreographer. “I have looked up to them for many years for their strength, humility, bond and courage. I was thinking about how to honor them, so I decided to create a dance about what soldiers go through, how they have to come together and their journey through war.”

She is now a freshman majoring in human physiology at the University of Oregon where she continues to turn to dance as a touchstone for her very being.

“InnerRhythms has impacted my life in ways I cannot explain,” she says. “They have taught me the meaning of discipline, loyalty, commitment, respect, humility, perseverance, confidence and so much more. They have given me so many opportunities to grow not only in dance, but in life and as a person.”

Founded in 2002, InnerRhythms is a nonprofit dedicated to support youth through the performing arts. In the spirit of “Stand Alone Together,” executive director Elizabeth Archer has decided that part of that mission includes making their classes accessible to everyone regardless of financial status.

The school currently has two active fundraising campaigns for $10,000 each in order to raise money for their scholarship fund and the troupe’s upcoming trip to New Orleans. There they will perform at the National WWII Museum for the closing ceremony of the Leadership in American History Symposium and Tour led by “Band of Brothers” author Stephen Ambrose.

“People say dance is an extracurricular activity,” says Archer. “But when you immerse yourself in something like this, you go to a different place where you appreciate things more. That was what was so remarkable about watching the kids go through the process [of creating “Stand Alone Together”] and having the outcome be so powerful. Our job is to raise young leaders and citizens here. The second part is dance. So, we’ve had to stand by our principles and our values. Anybody who wants to dance can dance.”

InnerRhythms will host its Silver Linings Winter Performance on Dec. 7. Tickets are available online.

For more information on InnerRhythms, visit innerrhythms.org. To help fund the trip to New Orleans, visit gofundme.com/innerrhythms.


 

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Sean McAlindin

Sean McAlindin is a writer, musician and educator based in Truckee. When he’s not drafting new story ideas, he can be found jamming with his Celtic bluegrass band, Lost Whiskey Engine, hiking for a local back-country powder stash or hanging out with his daughter, Penelope.