Pioneer Dancers Take the Stage

First Year of Oak Ridge Dance Class

Jasmine Boyens, Feature Editor

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Photo by Jasmine Boyens                                                                                            Students dancing to Uptown Funk By Bruno Mars

Students spread out into groups on the dark wood floors of the stage in the school auditorium. Someone turns on a bright light that glows over the stage and shines on the more beige colored pieces of glossed wood.

An upbeat song begins to play. For the first few seconds no one moves, until the familiar voice of Bruno Mars begins to echo through the high ceiling of the auditorium. The students, facing the teacher, begin to dance in unified movement.

Aquilano speaks in a loud and enthusiastic voice. The students smile and follow along with Aquilano, who is sporting bright green leg warmers that resemble the closest she could get to the school colors. Beforehand, she had explained that it kept her ankles warm and protected them when she danced so much during the day.

Welcome to the first year of dance class at Oak Ridge High School. In this class students are able to incorporate something they enjoy with a way to get physical activity and explore a possible outlet for self-expression.

Many students at Oak Ridge High School have things that make them happy and use it to express themselves on a daily basis, whether it be music, sports, gaming, writing or art. Several Orange County Schools have dance classes and there have been many after-school clubs that involve dance, like color guard, but this is the first year that the Pioneers have an actual dance class.

There are many genres of dance that both the teacher and the students prefer. The dance teacher, Nicole Acquilano, says that she prefers ballet and jazz but today the class was doing a more upbeat and pop version of dance. Some students like Adara Young, also enjoy ballet but many of the students are interested in modern, hip hop, and lyrical songs to dance to.

Most students in Aquilino’s class have already taken previous years of dance but dance class is a great opportunity for them. Dance does not only improve them physically and mentally but it gives them a chance to create and express themselves as well as enhances their ability to do better in their other, more academic, classes.

The class also helps with team work skills, collaborating with peers, and making new friends. Also, students say that they enjoy dancing because it makes them face their fears of performing in front of other people.

There are plenty of students who do not plan to pursue a career in dance but it helps relieve stress and is something they enjoy. Avia Hudson, a senior at Oak Ridge, says that the class helps with “preparation and understanding how to go from one place to another.

Over time you get the structure of ‘hey I need to do this, there at precise times’ so it corresponds to my regular life.”

— Avia Hudson

With a new class also comes a new teacher. Mrs. Aquilano, the dance teacher, has been dancing since she was six years old and has been successful in many things in her career.

She started out working with ballet companies in Pennsylvania and New York and did off broadway productions of “West Side Story.” Aquilano has also been working with Walt Disney World since 1995 as well as choreographed shows and parades.

Aquilano chose to teach dance because she says it is the usual “life span of a dancer, you can only perform for so long and there is a way and time for a dancer to give back.” But she also teaches because she wants to pass dancing on and “train the next generation of Disney and Universal performers.”

The dance teacher of 20 years, chose to work specifically at Oak Ridge High School because of the community of students. She says that her students are a great group of kids and they always give her their all.

Cecil Philbert, a sophomore, said that a big reason he goes to dancing class at Oak Ridge is because of the teacher. Several of the students agree that Aquilano is a great dance teacher and is always very energetic and enthusiastic in her classes.

Dance also consists of warming up and learning the basics of ballet, something most students don’t already know.

Aquilano likes to incorporate jazz, theater, hip hop, and modern, and fuses it with what students like to do as well. She also loves when her students can teach her some of the new styles of dance that are popular.

Being that it is the first year of dance class the teacher says that “it is an extraordinarily new development.” There will start to be a difference in the styles of dance the classes learn when they get the chance for the school to install proper flooring and shoes but they are greatful to use the auditorium stage once a week.

Some may question how a dance class can be graded but, although most grades are based on the effort students put in their performance during class, students also do other things to earn a grade. Aquilano will sometimes assign surveys and essays for students to write. Also during the upcoming quarter the students will be doing video critiques and analysis of different styles of dance.

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