Seasoned choreographer carries on mother's legacy

Published: Tuesday, April 15 2014 4:16 p.m. MDT

The brothers and their brides in the Canyon View Junior High production of "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers."

Aerwyn Whitlock

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OREM — Collette Tregeagle couldn't choose a standout in her "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" junior high school cast.

Each of the 83 cast members did a great job, she said. They took direction well, worked hard and performed with energy and heart. They took away experiences that will shape their lives.

And Tregeagle should know. She's a seasoned choreographer with her own performing arts studio in Provo, a studio she took over from her famous mother.

Colleen Collins Smith was an accomplished ballet dancer, a graduate in theater and dance from Brigham Young University and the University of Utah, a performer with the Utah Ballet and a Radio City Rockette. She danced on Broadway and assisted with the choreography for the movie version of the "Seven Brides" play done in 1954 by MGM Studios, a movie that won an Oscar for Best Music in 1955 and was nominated for Best Picture as well.

She has taught more than 15,000 students jazz, ballet, ballroom dance, gymnastics and musical theater.

She died at 83 in 2011, having performed most recently at the Covey Center for the Arts in 2010.

Tregeagle is keeping her mother's dedication to dance and theater alive through her work with her studio and in helping budding young actors and dancers.

She helped direct the "Bye, Bye, Birdie" show at the junior high last year with her colleague Kate Reilly. For the past three months, she's spent long but rewarding hours getting "Seven Brides" ready for its opening last month.

She basically donates her time because she loves it, she said. (And she had a son in the cast.)

"It's amazing to watch the kids under the tutelage of someone who knows what they're doing," said Danielle Tibbitts, who directed the shows, which were performed in March. "They're learning life lessons here. We had fantastic crowds.

"I did not know either Collette or her mother, Colleen, when they first began working with us. In the years before she passed away, Colleen came and observed and helped us quite a few times," Tibbitts said.

"There are always comments about the dancing in our shows, and I believe the choreography she (Smith) did with the 'Seven Brothers' made them the show-stoppers they were."

Tregeagle and Tibbitts, along with music director Hannah Sanders, worked with a large cast because they were impressed at the auditions with the 83 students whom they felt really wanted to be included.

Tregeagle said it's a very big opportunity for the kids in the cast to sing and dance and act. Many had never danced in front of an audience before. "Seven Brides" required them to tap dance and even dance a polka.

"It was out of their comfort zone," she said. "I think they all realize this was a great opportunity to learn. This was a lot of fun and it will help them."

Principal Wade Lott said the students are lucky to have Tregeagle working on the show, alongside Tibbitts.

"It's a great production," he said. "The students are happy. They love it."

In May, the students at the school will put on a showcase performance that will include song, dance and acting pieces and several weeks working with professional coaches such as Tregeagle.

Sharon Haddock is a professional writer with more than 35 years' experience, 17 at the Deseret News. Her personal blog is at sharonhaddock.blogspot.com.

Email: haddoc@deseretnews.com

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