Bonnie Story, an Emmy-winning choreographer renowned for her work in Disney’s “High School Musical,” ( as well as the 2002 Winter Olympics and “Viva Elvis”) drew a crowd to the Rock Center for Dance on Aug. 7.

Story had a magnetic quality for dancers craving different contemporary jazz and offered a more structured feel in the sometimes nebulous style.

Technique wasn’t the emphasized point of the class, but the dancers that stood out the most had obviously trained in more than contemporary.

As prevalent as the style has become, it makes sense that contemporary is splintering into more distinct branches. Story is holding down the fort of what can only be called classical contemporary, which isn’t as oxymoronic as it appears to be.

She stuck to the long-standing principles of breath and feeling as two enhancers of movement but resisted the urge to cater to the angst-ridden, teenage side of contemporary. Finally, there was a combination devoid of the throw-yourself-on-the-floor choreographic cliché.

And true to her name, Story encouraged the dancers to think of the choreography as an acting scene that happens to be to music, not just a series of steps.

The dancers that stood out in her class at the Rock weren’t just the ones that could stay in character, however. The choreography was demanding and the undercurrent of technique was undeniable.

It was an interesting juxtaposition. The combination at the end of class had all the attributes of strong contemporary and relied on principles beyond high passés. However, it didn’t use the freeform choreography as a cop-out for lackluster technique.

Story’s simultaneous commitment to genuine human-ness and exceptional dancing explains her success.

(Story’s offspring are also no strangers to success. Kelli Baker, 18,  auditioned for “So You Think You Can Dance” in Salt Lake City in 2004. She made it to Vegas but was eliminated just before the Top 20 was selected. Kelli attended the master class on Aug. 7 and she and her sister Bayli were both featured dancers in the “High School Musical” movies.)

Hopefully the strong turnout for classes of this nature herald contemporary’s transition to a more mature and developed sphere. Thanks to people like Bonnie Story, the still-new style has its foot very firmly in the door of highly respected dance.

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