Footlight dancer Ava Knowles practices outside in warmer weather.

Every winter for the past 35 years, Hailey-based Footlight Dance Company has toured every school in Blaine County to perform live, showcasing the various forms of dance its students master and offering new artistic perspectives to its audiences. Last year, Footlight managed to complete its tour before COVID-19 arrived in the Wood River Valley.

Under the current circumstances, another districtwide tour is unfeasible this year, but under the artistic direction of Hilarie Neely, the dance company will present a virtual alternative to the traditional programming.

“Paths to New Connections,” an artistic response to the pandemic, will stream for free from Footlight’s Vimeo channel starting Feb. 8. The concert was filmed live Saturday, Jan. 30, at the Wood River High School Performing Arts Theater, and features 15 dancers performing ballet, modern dance, jazz, hip-hop and tap.

Each dance will be introduced by the choreographer, who will share their creative process with the audience, touching upon how they responded to the unusual circumstances.

Students from WRHS and the Sun Valley Community School, as well as homeschooled students, make up the 15-dancer ensemble. Among them, seniors Britta Heaphy, Sydney Herold and Daria Brown are participating in their final year of performances.

“As dance artists, we bring a responsibility for making the world a more livable and beautiful place by sharing our emotions through the use of our body,” Neely said. “As educators, we have a responsibility to bring different points of view to our students. How can we approach subject matter in different ways to help students comprehend with their differing learning styles? The arts are another avenue to explore our world [and] our community and understand each other as humans.”

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