Behind the scenes of 'Once Upon a Tundra'

Apr 2, 2019

Last weekend, the Dillingham 4-H ballet club performed its spring recital 'Once Upon a Tundra.' The performance was the result of more than four months of preparation.

Credit Isabelle Ross/KDLG

It was quiet behind the curtain. The students sat on the floor as dance teacher Mariah Smith whispered instructions. 

"Raise your hand one more time really high!" she said, counting out the different dance groups. 

Credit Isabelle Ross/KDLG

Forty-seven dancers were getting ready for their final performance of the 4-H ballet club's spring recital, 'Once Upon a Tundra.'  In past years, the recitals have featured one performance based on an aspect of local life, from commercial fishermen to Yup'ik dancing. But this year, the entire performance was locally inspired. 

Credit Isabelle Ross/KDLG

"We started choreographing in October or November," Smith said. "Students started learning the dances a little bit in December, but a lot in January." 

Smith said the most challenging part of the performance was coordinating the students; they had two costume changes during the hour-long show.

"Having three costumes and two costume changes can be a lot of work," she said. "Thanks to the volunteers that are here to help us with that."

A team of 14 volunteers and supporters contributed to the production. Costumes for all ten dances were made by Cathy Hyndman, Rima Butler and Erin Davenport. Candy Miller served as the treasurer. Along with Smith and Reigh, Diana Schollmeier and Kari Andrew taught dance this season, and Katie Shears was the teaching assistant. Parents spent many hours helping to prepare in the week leading up to the show.  

This performance was the culmination of two months of practice. Heading into the final dances, level D student Cara Tilden was not especially nervous. 

Credit Isabelle Ross/KDLG

"I've never been really scared on stage," she said. Tilden also expected the second time to go more smoothly. "I've had a lot of practice and know how it's going to be from yesterday." 

Shortly before the swan dancers went on stage, instructor Tina Reigh gave a them a pep talk. Asked what Reigh had said, Tilden replied, "Dance like it's going to be your last dance." 

They did just that; in the finale, the dancers threw glitter into the air to thunderous applause. 

The program was sponsored by Debbi Jo Thibeau and Dance Concept. 

Credit Isabelle Ross/KDLG

Credit Isabelle Ross/KDLG
Credit Isabelle Ross/KDLG
Credit Isabelle Ross/KDLG
Credit Isabelle Ross/KDLG

Volunteers and Supporters:

Camryn Andrew

Erin Andrew

Kyrstin Arellano

Deanna Baier

Alethia Belleque

Bridget Bergen

Rima Butler

Todd & Annie Fritze

Shireen Glosser

Cathy Hyndman

Logan Ito

Angelica Marx

Sawyer Sands

Sadie Sands

Contact the author at or 907-842-2200.