BY GABRIELA MARTÍNEZ — High school and middle school students from Prince George’s County showed off their dance skills during the Prince George’s County Schools 19th Annual Dance Showcase on Saturday, March 19. With the help of their dance instructors, the students created elaborate choreographies, some of which took months to prepare.
This year, the showcase was held at Northwestern High School and featured performances by nearly 200 students, representing schools from across the county.
The Prince George’s County Public Schools High School Honors Dance Ensemble — which includes students from Oxon Hill High School, Suitland High School, and Dr. Henry A. Wise Jr. High School — were selected by their dance teachers based on their experience and level of expertise. After performing to the song “Dances with Wood”, by Mickey Hart and Zakir Hussain, members of the ensemble received medals for their accomplishments.
Eighth grade dance majors from Hyattsville Middle School performed a ballet piece entitled “Degas,” in which the students had the opportunity to recreate the artistic process of painting through dance. The dancers — Nailah Barnes, Simone Benjamin, Cassandra Figueroa, Noe Gomez-Cruz, Emperess Johnson, Kevin McDougald, Katherina Miranda, Amelia Parchment, Courtney Richardson, Bianny Rodriguez, and Bryan Huerta-Morales — represented various paintings by the French impressionist master Edgar Degas: “The Rehearsal,” “The Statue,” “Girl with Shoe,” and “Dancers in Class.”
Included as research for their dance project, the students reviewed all of Degas’ other paintings, in addition to the four artworks they represented through dance.
“Degas painted so many ballerinas, that you have bring his paintings to life somehow,” said Anneliese Parisi, dance instructor at Hyattsville Middle School.
The Degas dance piece was a collaborative between the visual arts, dance, and TV production students from Hyattsville Middle School. The visual art students researched impressionist artists and painted their own work while dance majors served as models. TV production students filmed a video that featured the dance major’s choreography, Parisi said.
The dance students from Northwestern High School performed a dance piece entitled “The Strange and Peculiar Children” to Maroon 5’s version of the Willy Wonka classic “Pure Imagination.” The choreography for the piece was based on “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” — a novel that dance instructor, Nicole Cho, selected for class. Performing students were Victorina Baptiste, Rayonna Dixon, Joshua Gray, Jenora Singh and Savanna Williams.
“Our theme this year for our concert was books alive and so we chose a book to choreograph our dances from. I chose “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. There was a very interesting scene where these soul-sucking monsters come out and attack the two characters,” Cho said.
The two lead dancers in the performance were Northwestern sophomores, Jenora Singh and Joshua Gray. In the dance, Gray played a character who has secret powers he does not know about. Singh plays the character of a girl who manipulates fire, water and air.
Baptiste, one of the younger performers in the piece, enjoyed playing the role of one of the monsters.
“I liked how I am always so happy, but I could be dark in this piece,” Baptiste said.
Singh originally saw herself going to to law school after college. Her experiences participating in Northwestern High School’s dance program, however, presented a new opportunity.
“I just like the fact that I actually get the opportunity to dance every day. And although my body gets really, really tired, I just have to remember that people don’t get this opportunity,” Singh said. “Being here just drives me. It makes me realize that dance is a career. It can be a career if you want it to be, and that’s what I love to do. If I apply myself, I can make a living and be happy.”
Temisha Kinard, who works as the supervisor for all dance programs at Prince George’s public schools and coordinates the showcase every year, remembers when she participated in the showcase as a senior at Suitland High School in 1998. In the beginning, the showcase had a multicultural focus, but now is open to all themes.
“Students can use the vehicle of dance to express themselves when they don’t know how to. It’s important for students to have that mind-body connection,” Kinard said. “There’s so much more to learning about dance than the actual movement onstage. There’s a history behind it, there’s geography behind it, you’re learning a foreign language when you learn ballet, you’re learning about anatomy, you’re learning how to care of your internal body as well as your external body as a dancer.”