On deck: First Date

English teacher and choreographer Mrs. DeDecker opened Chicago production of First Date

by Susan Back, the Voice

DedeckerIt is easy to forget that teachers have interests more than just teaching. Earlier this month, The Royal George Theatre in Chicago premiered the musical First Date, choreographed by Waubonsie Valley’s own Mrs. Becky DeDecker. The opportunity came from her past connections with the director of First Date, J. R. Rose. Before joining the Waubonsie family DeDecker taught at Homewood Flossmoor High School and choreographed Rose’s high school productions, including the 2014 All State show, Memphis.

English teacher Mrs. DeDecker started choreographing her freshman year of college, originally for high schools in the ISU area. Since then, she has choreographed thirty-five musicals, usually between five and seven a year. She has incorporated all kinds of styles in her collection of works, from jazz, hip hop, tap dance, to lyrical, and has focused on partnering work with tango, salsa, and the jump-and-jive style. Her experience in competitive dancing, from her own competitions during high school to her years of coaching dance teams, have made her qualified as a professional choreographer.

On February 12, Chicago premiered the production of First Date, starring Charlie Lubeck and Dana Parker. Opened on Broadway in 2013 at the Longacre Theatre, a collaboration of high school teachers worked as director, producers, and choreographer, receiving the bid for the musical’s Chicago premiere at the Royal George Theatre. Although she often focuses with partner work, whether it be different styles or partner lifts and dances, First Date limited DeDecker’s partner choreography with a cast of only seven people confined to a very small space. Instead she infused more hip hop and musical theatre with its “kinda showy showmanship” into the choreography.

Despite her rigor and expertise in choreography, her passion for teaching remains her priority. With a dual degree in Theatre education and English education, DeDecker was able to fuse the two, not only teaching during the day but being involved in extracurricular theatre productions as well. Dance only furthered her realm of the theatre world. Her efficiency of time management as a choreographer and a teacher hasn’t forfeited one passion for another. Between traveling to school and driving to the city at night for musical rehearsal, DeDecker has stressed the importance of preparation in teaching both dance steps and the English curriculum. In comparison of dancers to high school students, she recognized the difference in passion of the high school performer that loves what they’re doing and the performer that’s getting a paycheck for their performance. Regardless of her work in the professional world, her experiences, DeDecker said, where “everyone is working for the same goal, everyone’s just so excited and wants to put in the best production they can but also have a good time and create great memories” is found uniquely at the high school level. Although the professional world of choreography is invigorating, it is nothing compared to her passion to teach.

Consequently, DeDecker will be integrating herself more in Waubonsie’s musicals. She choreographed the 2014 musical, In the Heights, and is now working on the dances for the upcoming spring musical, Seussical the Musical. Her contributions to the performing arts allows for the growth of high school students, and as a whole, Mrs. DeDecker herself loves it all.