Dancing to work: Emma Williams, 19, choreographs Music Guild show

Posted Online: July 01, 2011, 4:39 pm
Comment on this story | Print this story | Email this story
By Sara Clifton, southof20@qconline.com
Emma Williams has dance in her blood.

The 19-year-old from Milan, soon to be a St. Ambrose University sophomore,has been dancing her entire life. Now she has taken a huge step in her career by becoming the choreographer for Quad City Music Guild's production of "The Drowsy Chaperone," which will have a two-weekend run beginning July 8 at Prospect Park, Moline.

Her love for dance began when she was 2 and tagged along to her older sister's dance lessons."I would never just sit and watch -- I was always out on the floor, trying to dance along," Emma said.

Soon after, she became a student at Myrna Rae's Studio of Dance, studying there until she was about 15.

She joined the Sherrard Dance Team for basketball and football and stuck with it through four years of high school. She also started dancing on stage at 14 and choreographed her first show, 'The Wizard of Oz,'

at the high school in 2009.

Since then, she has choreographed two more shows at the school, she said.

Dance has been important to Emma for many reasons, one of the most important being its versatility.

"Once I started dancing, I just couldn't stop," she said. "Any and all emotions can be released and expressed through dance. When I am happy or excited, I dance with joy; when I am frustrated, I can throw on my tap shoes and stomp it out. I have never found anything nearly as therapeutic, beautiful and fun."

The opportunity to be involved with "The Drowsy Chaperone" started with family and experience. Over the years, Emma has been involved in many Music Guild productions, and her father, Bob, actually is the director of this show.

"I decided to go out on a limb and apply to choreograph," she said. "I couldn't think of a better show to apply for -- I absolutely love the show, and I couldn't turn away the opportunity to work with my dad. I will be eternally grateful that the board of directors gave me the opportunity."

She now can add this position to her already impressive resume.Her first show at Music Guild was "George M!" in 2006, where she was a featured dancer. Since then, she was in the ensemble of "It's a Wonderful Life" in 2006; Mrs. Zebulun in "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" in 2007; in the ensemble of "My Fair Lady" in 2008; and was one of the featured chorus girls in "The Producers" and in the ensemble of "All Shook Up," both in 2009.

She also played French horn in the pit orchestras of "Guys and Dolls" and "Curtains" in 2010. In addition, she has worked crew for a few shows and has volunteered around the theater for many productions.

Emma says that explaining "The Drowsy Chaperone" is a little difficult, but "once people see the show, they will totally understand!"

Emma said the show basically is about a musical-theater fanatic. It takes place in his apartment, where he plays the record of his favorite show -- the fictional 1928 musical "The Drowsy Chaperone" -- and the characters come to life.

The styles of dancing in this show are limitless, she said: tap, roller skating, dancing monkeys and much more."It is one of the most hilarious, wittiest and best musicals I have ever seen," she said.

Emma said she has truly has loved doing this show and has learned a lot. She also said she wouldn't trade the experience for anything in the world.

In the beginning she was very nervous with a cast full of veteran and amazingly talented performers."Many of the people in the show have actually directed me," she said.But after she got over her nerves, it was pretty easy going, she said.

All together, Emma choreographed four large production numbers using the whole cast, and about five others featuring smaller group. About eight numbers are entirely her own work.

Of all of the dance sequences in the show, the most difficult also is her favorite."The hardest sequence was, without a doubt, the five-minute tap number," she said. "Toward the beginning of the first act, two of the male primary characters perform a tap dance. Tap is by far my favorite form of dance, but it is also the most difficult."

In rehearsals, she has learned a lot of skills she'll use in the future as an English and public-relations major."Choreography takes a lot of verbal and nonverbal communication. I can know the dance and execute it perfectly, but that does nothing if I can't verbally explain the dance as well," she said.

Being able to answer questions "on her feet" was a challenge at first.

"I really learned to think quickly," she said. "It was very important to me to utilize the actors' time as much and as well as possible, since time is so valuable. I would be in front of our cast of 23, and an actor would ask a question that I hadn't really thought about, and I would have to respond right on the spot, which is quite a trick."

Being able to provide the appropriate praise and constructive criticism was a great skill to have as well.

Her summer has been filled to the brim, but it has kept her happy and excited for each day with the cast and especially the crew and director.

"It has really helped me develop, both personally and professionally," she said. "I am so glad I have been able to work under the direction of my dad. I may be a little biased, but he is one of the most talented people and directors I know. He has been an integral part in making this experience so wonderful and worthwhile."

Doing something she loves also hasn't hurt."It has just been a whole lot of fun! I have had a blast making up the dances and teaching them to the energetic cast. They always put a smile on my face at rehearsals.

Her experience at Music Guild made the audition and rehearsal process easier on her, since she knew what to expect. She also has taken what she's learned from other choreographers and added her own style, she said.

Emma has big plans for her future."I am really still contemplating what I want to do after I graduate," she said. "Right now, I want to use my public-relations degree and go on to be a public-relations consultant or communications manager for a large nonprofit."Her ultimate dream is to work either for Toms Shoes -- which gives one pair of shoes to a needy child for every pair it sells -- or Autism Speaks.

"I have also considered using my degree to work with public relations for a college or university," she said.

She also wants to stay involved with community theater for as long as possible.

"If I am fortunate enough to settle in the Quad-Cities, I will always be involved with Music Guild, whether it's choreographing or performing," she said. "It really is a second home to me."

Sara Clifton of Coal Valley will attend St. Ambrose University in Davenport in the fall.



Local events heading

  Today is Thursday, Oct. 2, the 275th day of 2014. There are 90 days left in the year.

1864 -- 150 years ago: The ladies have adopted the fashion of wearing representations of insects in the flowers on their bonnets. Some look very natural.
1889 -- 125 years ago: T.F. Cary, former Rock Island alderman, has accepted a position as salesman for a Chicago wallpaper house and plans to move to that city.
1914 -- 100 years ago: Work on the new telephone building on 18th Street between 6th and 7th avenues is progressing rapidly.
1939 -- 75 years ago: Rock Island's new theater at 3rd Avenue and 19th Street will have a name significant of its location. The "Rocket" is scheduled to open Thanksgiving Day.
1964 -- 50 years ago: Two of Rock Island's newest water towers were vandalized last night, including the one at 38th Street and 31st Avenue, where police took five Moline boys into custody about 9 p.m..
1989 -- 25 years ago: Some of us who live in the Quad-Cities take the Mississippi River for granted, or at least we used to. But the river is not taken for granted by our visitors. And most Quad-Citians are realizing the importance of the river to this area as increased emphasis is placed on tourism.

(More History)