- Cleburne Independent School District
Choreographer of CHS Fine Arts Production is Senior Skye Ewell
Skye Ewell’s credits as a cast member in the Cleburne High School Fine Arts production of Shrek the Musical includes choreographer.
Cleburne’s annual fine arts presentation is in its final week of performances at the Don Smith Performing Arts Center. Evening presentations will take place Thursday-Saturday at 7; a 2:30 Saturday matinee is also featured. Admission is $10 and tickets may be purchased online at: https://secure.payk12.com/school/cleburneisd/118
Ewell is among several theater arts students who have taken on technical lead roles, in addition to performing on stage. Theater Arts teacher Keli Price presented Ewell with the opportunity to choreograph the production last spring.
“We will be competing in both the Betty Buckley and the Dallas Summer Musicals High School Musicals Awards this year,” Ewell said. “In order to meet guidelines for the Best in Choreography Award, the work must be done by a student or a teacher. I was so scared when Mrs. Price asked me. I was afraid I’d mess up. But I feel I’ve blown it out of the water.”
Price makes it clear that the CHS senior more than met the challenge—under some tight deadlines.
“Skye stepped into this role, knowing she was required to submit all the choreography in June,” Price said. “She had all the plots done and submitted so that I could approve them and make sure this was something she was ready for. She did not disappoint.”
“I do not have near the training that Skye does,” Price said. “The choreography in this year’s show is better than what I would have done—and as I have in years past. We have tap, a little ballet, jazz—and some really great numbers. I’m so proud of her.”
The 18-year-old has been studying dance since the age of two and has been involved in the design side of dancing for five years. In the eighth grade, she was the choreographer in the Smith Middle School production of Elf, Junior. As a sophomore, she was the dance captain in the high school’s The Addams Family and assisted with the choreography of the 2021 fine arts production of Wizard of Oz.
Despite her dance talents and experiences, this newest challenge kept her on her toes, according to Ewell.
“I bet I watched the musical version of Shrek on Netflix a jillion times to get the feel and style,” she said. “I had to fit the niche it needed to what I wanted to do. The choreography I was designing needed to be very fun and uplifting.”
Ewell decided to tackle the hardest part first, in creating the steps and movement for the ending number, in which everyone in the 40-plus cast is on stage.
“I started with the biggest groups and moved to the smallest,” she said. “I ended with the Three Blind Mice scene—in which they perform a tap routine.”
“This took a lot of research, which included a study of the cast,” Ewell said. “I needed to know the strengths and weaknesses of each member, and the body movements of the dancers. I looked at a lot of shows in finding the things I liked—then made it my own. I went from a broad spectrum down to nit picking.”
Her favorite scene, as the choreographer, is the appearance of the Dragon, portrayed by fellow senior Hunter Patrick.
“In the script, there are supposed to be old men in chains in the scene, along with the Dragon,” Ewell said. “I didn’t like that. Instead, I created ‘scales’ as if each performer is a part of the Dragon. I wanted my choreography to reflect the Dragon’s desire to hide her inner feelings—including those she has for Donkey--while the scales want her to break out of her shell.”
Ewell describes the scene featuring the Three Blind Mice, in which she is among the dancers, as another favorite.
“It’s the most playful scene I’ve ever created for a stage production,” she said. “I think it shows Donkey’s sassy side, as we are in his imagination. It was fun incorporating tap into the dance steps. Everyone picked up on it really well. I am very pleased with how it turned out.”
Ewell is also among those dancing the steps she designed as the Ugly Duckling, a Dragon’s scale, a rat and a Duloc Dancer.
“This has given me the opportunity to sample life as a future educator,” she said. “It’s given me a different look into how teaching feels. I put myself into a different mindset when I’m working with the dancers as the choreographer. It’s different than being on stage with my friends.”
Emily Moore has also brought dance experience to her role of Princess Fiona—and is very complimentary of Ewell’s performance as the show’s choreographer.
“I’m not surprised by what Skye has accomplished,” Moore said. “She’s a hard worker. She gets things done; people listen to her. She is good at what she does. It takes a lot of courage to teach your peers—and she has. She is so respected.”
“I don’t put a lot of pressure on being perfect, but rather having fun performing,” Ewell said. “And that is happening—I can feel it bouncing off everyone in the show. I admit I’m very surprised I got through this. At one point in the process I thought about calling Mrs. Price and telling her ‘I can’t do it.’ I’m so proud of myself that I stuck it out.”
“I feel so excited that I can call this play my own,” she said. “I worked so hard to get myself and my friends to where we are on stage.”
While she is enjoying the moment, Ewell is also looking down the road to the spring and her final high school UIL One Act Play production. She plans to attend The University of North Texas to major in art and minor in dance. She would like to be an art teacher at the high school or college level, while also working in small/community theater as a choreographer.
“I love being on stage and stage management,” Ewell said. “I love performing and making people feel entertained and happy. Shrek is a whirlwind of emotions—happy, sad, longing—it’s everything you want to see in a show. We have an amazing cast, with a passion for what they are doing. If you come, you’ll leave—wanting to see it again.”