Dancers Esmeralda and Eva

Dancers Esmeralda Castro and Eva Patricia Rincon take part in Moving Portraits by DancEstrella.

The thought-provoking production Moving Portraits will come to the Estrella Mountain Community College stage Friday, April 27, and Saturday, April 28, thanks to DancEstrella, the student dance company.

Students chose the dances’ personal subject matter, according to Janaea Lyn McAlee, the artistic director and residential dance faculty. She said students are paired by their “heart story.”

“It’s what they’re bringing to the table and what their movement idea is around their personal idea,” McAlee said. “It creates a level playing field and everyone has their truth to explore through movement. My role is more of a mentor and facilitator.”

Identity is the theme of Moving Portraits, which features 18 performances. There is a portrait, but that portrait is not necessarily all there is to someone’s story. A Q&A session with DancEstrella students follows each show.

“The audience can ask questions about the dance and what they’ve seen,” McAlee explained.

“I also make sure that every single student speaks at some point during those shows. Even the shyest person has to speak, and they are all so amazingly eloquent.”

McAlee has been with EMCC for five years and is the first full-time faculty in the DancEstrella program.

“Since we’ve been in the performing arts center, the program has been able to develop and graduate majors,” McAlee said.

Prior to the opening of the performing arts center, the company performed annually. Now there are two performances each year – one performance at the end of each semester.

Each semester, there are about 20 students in DancEstrella.

“The interesting thing is that we’re a student performing company, but there are no auditions,” MeAlee said. “Anybody who wants to participate can. There is a mix of majors, nonmajors, levels of training and different styles of training. I believe it gives a rich experience when you’re working with people from different backgrounds.”

The artistic director is proud of her students’ technical accomplishments, and their willingness to explore personal experience.

“The majority of the works are made collaboratively by the students,” she said.

“The process is different, and they don’t come in and learn steps. It’s really about developing a creative process.”

Each semester DancEstrella students select a broad theme and from there, each student brings a personal aspect to the theme. That element could be a movement, a lyric, a line of text or an image, and then the students must share the backstory on their contribution as told through dance.

Graduating practicum student Ali Ruiz is leaving DancEstrella with her final duet, Next Adventure, with Jessi Vincent.

“The most amazing thing I see time and again is that there is more unity and power in inherent intention than in everybody kicking their leg at the same time in unison,” McAlee said.

Moving Portraits

3 and 7 p.m. Friday, April 27, and Saturday, April 28

Estrella Mountain Community College Performing Arts Center, 3000 N. Dysart Road, Avondale

Tickets are free