For the first time in two years, Estrella Mountain Community College’s student dance company, DancEstrella, will perform live.

Students, employees and community members are invited to “And the Heart Beats On” Friday, Dec. 3, and Saturday, Dec. 4, in the Performing Arts Center on campus, 3000 N. Dysart Road, Avondale.

“After such a difficult period in everyone’s life, we are thrilled to have DancEstrella back onstage for the first time since December 2019,” said Professor Janaea Lyn McAlee, residential dance faculty.

The performances are 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. on both days. Admission is free and audience members can participate in a brief discussion with the dancers after the shows.

“The discussion is a regular feature at the end of every DancEstrella show,” McAlee said. “The dancers take questions and compliments from the audience so they can have an exchange and understand how their work was experienced. It’s an extension of the feedback process that is part of creating the dances in our classes.”

The performance features practicum dances by Assistant Directors Carissa Salgado-Garcia and Jade Teller; duets by choreography 2 dance majors Denise Lopez and Audrey Richards; collaborative choreography by students in performance classes; and a full company work by McAlee.

Teller’s piece is called “Distractions.”

“In life, we have our distractions, whether we want them or not,” she said. “And depending on what the distraction is, it could be good or bad. My piece is about showing those distractions and how we can get tangled in them.”

Salgado-Garcia’s dance, “A Piece of You,” is about losing loved ones and coming to terms with it

“It’s very emotionally driven,” she said. “I lost my grandmother in December of last year and not long after, I lost a great aunt who I was close to. This helped me grieve and honor their memory.”

Neither Teller nor Salgado-Garcia will perform in the dances they choreographed. They will appear in several pieces throughout the show.

“I’m very stoked to be able to perform in person,” Teller said. “Having shows virtually was great because it meant we still had shows, but I feel like you should experience something this intimate in person.”

Salgado-Garcia couldn’t agree more.

“I’m so excited to be able to perform in person again,” she said. “This is what I have loved the most — being able to perform and connect with the audience.”

McAlee said the dances are based on the students’ experience of loss and personal struggle but also unexpected gifts and self-determination that have all been a part of the pandemic.

“Now that we are back in person and able to dance and create together, students have wanted to express both the difficulties they have been through and a newfound commitment to living the life they truly want,” she said.

Masks are required while indoors on campus and seating is limited. Seating is available on a first-come, first-served basis at the door.