Emotional tribute to open Winter Dance Concert

December 05, 2016 / by / 0 Comment

By Mark Heller
GCU News Bureau

The only permanence in life is change.

2016Kayla Castro

Makayla Samantha Cook-Castro was 18 years old when she was killed while climbing Camelback Mountain last spring. Even now that she’s gone, Kayla’s spirit lives on in those who felt lucky to know her.

The Winter Dance Concert production of “Impermanence” at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 13, at Grand Canyon University’s Ethington Theatre dance ensemble will perform an exploration of joy and sorrow instigated through life changes, both large and small.

The opening performance hits close to home immediately and thoroughly.

“Dancing by Your Side” was an original song written by Grand Canyon University students Kristyn Roberts and Josh Wathen last spring when Roberts’ close friend and roommate, Kayla Castro, was killed while climbing Camelback Mountain.

Inspired by the song, its accompanying video and reading Kayla’s tribute website, choreographer Bekki Price reached out to GCU’s Worship Arts program. They connected her with Roberts and Wathen in early fall, and Price choreographed a dance tribute to not only Kayla and the song, but the symbiotic relationships between life, death, people and change that are prevalent throughout the 10-dance program.

Miriam Baker leads the 12-person dance group for “Dancing by Your Side,” which is accompanied by live music from Roberts, Wathen, Sarynne Earls, Fletcher Milloy and Jonathon White. Following three months of creation, collaboration and rehearsals, the piece begins wth an introduction of people through Baker’s solo conclusion, all of which felt apropos to the life-cycle journey between birth and death.

“No matter who or how she’s connected, she left an impression and impact,” Price said of Kayla. “That’s the impression we all had and how she lit up the room. Some of us interact for brief period of time, but it still shapes the path and legacy we leave behind.

“It was really important that the audience knows the story and inspiration behind the song. I want the audience to take away something whether they knew Kayla, recently experienced loss, or recently met someone who might impact their life; connect to the audience in any way that they can take something from it. I think this will definitely do that.”

Performing the music in front of a live audience was only done during Kayla’s memorial service. But as time and life changes, so, too, has the emotional roller coaster and perspective steered her former (random) roommate from the same small town of Escondido, Calif.

“Playing live with another piece of art makes it feel more real,” Roberts said. “There’s more emotion because I’m there and singing for Kayla to help showcase a glimpse into what she was about. I’ve learned to keep it together for the most part.

“It comes to me, I don’t have to think about the words or music. It’s really about her and it gets kind of hard, but instead of feeling sad I feel glad because I can show people a glimpse of who she was. It’s become a more happy feeling and I’m glad I can do this for my dear friend.”

It, too, seems apropos for a student who thrived on the fun and adventure that is change.

And life.

“She would love it,” Roberts said of her friend’s life on stage. “Even after I wrote and recorded it for the memorial, I know she would have thought it was so cool. So being performed for a dance group in front of a bunch of people, she’d think it’s the coolest thing. She’d love it.”

Contact Mark Heller at (602) 639-7516 or mark.heller@gcu.edu

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