‘ArreiS’ offers variety of musical styles at Newport Harbor
The success of “ArreiS,” the annual Newport Harbor High dance production, is personal to dance team coach Tara Olson.
Olson was a 14-year-old freshman at Newport Harbor when her mother, Julie Simmons, started the show in 1999.
“Her and I built this beast together,” said Olson, who stayed on as dance coach after graduating from high school. “No one showed us how to do it. It was so bad in the beginning, you’d be like, what the heck is this? We didn’t know what we were doing.”
But the eclectic “ArreiS” (pronounced “Array-is”) show has grown into one that Olson and Newport Harbor dance director Jamie Tanzer, who took over when Simmons retired a few years ago, can definitely be proud of.
It premieres Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the Newport Harbor theater, and runs nightly through Saturday. The show’s name is “Sierra” backward, a tribute to the late Sierra Soto, who was 4 years old in 1999 when she was hit by a car and killed while playing with friends.
“ArreiS” is in its second year back in the theater and offers a variety of musical styles, from contemporary to jazz to musical theater to hip-hop. Though it highlights the Newport Harbor dance team, students from Tanzer’s five dance classes on-campus — from Dance 1 through Dance 3 — also participate. She said there are about 180 students in this year’s show.
“This specific audience is a lot of non-dancers,” Olson said. “It’s not going to a dance competition or anything like that, which is what a lot of these kids come from. Making sure that the audience is super-engaged is kind of down to a science now. I try to check every box. Ideally, I want it to be impossible for everyone to have the same favorite dance.”
The Newport Harbor dance team has two captains this year, senior Alexandria Schachter and junior Chandler Green. Kate Bashore, Myah Contreras and Sofia Roth are the three other seniors on the squad.
Like many of her peers, Green said she grew up dreaming of being a part of “ArreiS” — especially since her older sister Presley was also dance team captain for two years before graduating in 2021. As a freshman, she auditioned for the team via Zoom during the coronavirus pandemic.
“I’ve done dance my entire life, and I’ve loved it my entire life,” Chandler Green said. “But there’s something about this [show] that connects with people who aren’t dancers, which I think is really special. It’s very geared toward the community. Our goal is to really genuinely and truly touch people’s hearts, and make an impact on their lives. To us, it’s not just a high school dance show, it’s a lot more than that. We try really hard to be as professional as we possibly can be.”
Schachter said it’s a long process to get to show week. The dance team starts working on the show in July.
“We hope that we can take people through a range or roller coaster of emotions, give them a different experience from their day-to-day life or like going to a movie,” Schachter said. “We try to create a good feeling for the community, to bring everyone together.”
Olson, now 38, said it makes her feel old to think that the show is now older than the students who participate in it.
“They have now been coming to these shows for their entire life, and all they have wanted is to just be on this stage,” she said. “That really blows me away. A lot of them started dance because they want to be on this team, and that’s really special.”
Ticket sales have stopped online, Olson said. The Wednesday show is sold out, but limited tickets for the other shows are tentatively available on campus at Newport Harbor at the ASB window or at the door.
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