Student dancers rehearse for Laguna Beach High's winter dance show "Essence" at the Artists Theatre on Wednesday. (Don Leach, Coastline Pilot / December 6, 2012)

The dancers moved their bodies to the music around the stage as a technician fiddled with the lighting. Choreographer Natalee Palmer, 17, watched her peers bring her story to life.

It is the Laguna Beach High School senior's third time choreographing, and the experience has changed her perspective on dance.

"It's honestly indescribable watching my creation on stage," Natalee said. "It feels like so much more of an accomplishment."

Natalee's piece, "Cutting Ties," will debut along with 12 pieces by a fellow advanced dance student, and pieces by Director Lisa Jay and four professional choreographers at the high school's winter dance performance, titled "Essence," at 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 13 in the Artists' Theatre. The show will run through Dec. 15.

"I think if [residents] have never been to one, they will really be impressed with what they see," Jay said.

The show will feature about 40 co-ed dancers performing in a variety of genres from contemporary ballet and hip-hop to jazz and modern. The show will feature music from artists like Florence and the Machine, M.I.A., Madonna, Justin Bieber and Missy Elliott.

Natalee's piece, which features the song, "Hide and Seek" by Imogen Heap, tells the story of a guy who constantly strings girls along. The idea came from her friend's experience with a boyfriend who did just that, and Natalee's own experience being there for her friend no matter what.

The dancers are part of the school's dance ROP program, Jay said. Each dancer participated in a two-day audition process during the first days of school where they performed for guest professional choreographers and had to go through call-backs, she said.

"We try to run the auditions like they would be on the outside," Jay said.

The dancers have been rehearsing six days a week all semester to prepare for the show.

On opening night, the Lumberyard restaurant, 384 Forest Ave., will donate 20% of each bill to the dance program if a patron mentions Laguna Beach High School dance.

All the money raised will go back to the program, as well as help fund a senior dance scholarship essay contest at the end of the year, according to Jay.

"It goes back into everything," Jay said.

Britney.barnes@latimes.com

Twitter: @britneyjbarnes

If you go

What: "Essence," the Laguna Beach High School winter dance show

When: 7:30 p.m. Dec. 13 through Dec. 15

Where: Artists' Theatre, 625 Park Ave.

Cost: $15 for adults, $8 for students and seniors. Reserved front and center tickets are $20.

Info: Tickets can be purchased at the door or at the box office from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Wednesday. For more information call (949) 497-7769.