These kids dance to their own tune!
Students combined ballet, modern, and jazz styles into a Disney-themed dance show at David A. Boody Middle School on May 8. The school’s dance director said one reason the program is so popular at the Gravesend school is because the dancer-students take the lead in developing the performances each year.
“We step back and let them choreograph,” said Jan Ford. “The children have an active role. It’s unlike any other program.”
David A. Boody’s “Dreams Come True” show took place on the school’s professional-quality marley dance floor, which prevents the kids from slipping. This year’s theme was Disney classics, and the kids performed adaptations of “Aladdin,” “Fantasia,” Hawaiian dances from “Moana” and more. The performance ended with the students playing the part of famed Disney villains all gathering on stage, trying to overpower each other.
The school is known for its dance program and performances, and the students help choreograph the dances, design the costumes, decide the music and more. For the past six years, Ford and her colleagues have collaborated with the Brighton Ballet Theater. The theater helps with the school’s multidisciplinary approach, where students learn about the history and social aspects of the dances, such as Hawaiian history for “Moana,” before taking the floor, according the theater’s dance teacher assigned to the school.
“They learned how to dance the hula before starting the ‘Moana’ performance,” said Irina Lapteva. “They studied not only the movie’s story, but traditional Hawaiian culture as well.”
The director credits the Brighton Ballet Theater with giving the students high-quality dance instruction.
“Nobody is more technical than Irina,” said Ford. “She teaches the correct placement from their bodies down to their fingers and nails.”
From this foundation, many students from the middle school have gone on to some of the top high schools for dance in the city, including LaGuardia High School in Manhattan.
Both teachers also pointed out that the school administration and principal Dominick D’Angelo are supportive of the dance program, giving the students time to watch professional dances in Brooklyn and on the distant isle of Manhattan, plus time to prepare for their elaborate shows. One faculty member, who is also a carpenter, built Aladdin’s magic carpet out of wood for the show on May 8, for example.
“You need to have the support of the school for this type of show,” said Lapteva.
Aside from teaching dance, the program brings students together from a variety of backgrounds, including Russian, Chinese, and Spanish speakers for whom English is not their first language.
“They all came to dance,” said Ford. “They speak the same body language.”