Dance Team Flourishes and Expands in 2016-2017 Academic Year
With the addition of the dance team in the 2014-2015 school year, the dance program has grown tremendously throughout the last four years. Before Middle and Upper School dance teacher Ms. Stephanie Simpson began teaching at Riverdale, dance classes were only available in the Upper School.
Four years ago, Ms. Simpson came to Riverdale to build the dance program and make it more cohesive. At the time, dance classes were part of the P.E. rotation; however, Ms. Simpson wanted to take dance out of P.E. and make it its own art. After this year, dance will have been taught as an art from the Middle School through the Upper School.
In the Upper School, Ms. Simpson teaches both the Intro to Dance class and the Advanced Dance class. The Intro to Dance class is a general course on the history and anatomy of dance. According to Ms. Simpson, the class features an academic and analytical approach to dance that “a lot of students haven’t gotten, even if they have been dancing their whole life at a studio” because the class “is based on a college curriculum.” Every Upper School student interested in dance is required to take the Intro to Dance class before moving on to the next level of dance.
The second dance level is Advanced Dance. The second level of dance changes from intermediate to advanced “every year depending on who is in the class.” In this class, students delve deeper into the history of dance, and they receive more opportunities to choreograph their own dances.
Three years ago, when Riverdale graduates Kamala Hargrove, Emily Vega, and Tyler Gibbs were juniors, they asked Ms. Simpson if they could create a dance team after watching the pep rally. They created a proposal and got it approved, so the 2014-2015 school year was the first time Riverdale had a dance team. In the team’s first year, it consisted of eleven girls. This year, the team has seventeen people, four boys and thirteen girls.
Ms. Simpson noted that the dance team “does not perform for specific [athletic] teams” since it is “based as a community group.” In addition to performing at Homecoming, the pep rally, and the Buzzell Games, the dance team also performs at the Diversity Banquet, the Best Buddies Prom, and at One World Day two years ago. The dance team is “student run and organized” with Ms. Simpson as the advisor. Captains April Wang, Bailey Landow, and Grace Haughton choreograph the dances, and Ms. Simpson monitors the activity to “make sure everything's running smoothly.”
While dance classes are more academic and primarily based in “modern dance and jazz technique,” the dance team is “stylistically more hip hop with some jazz influences,” as “the whole point is to get the audience excited and into it.”
Senior and co-captain of the dance team April Wang explained that dance class is more “focused on technique, but because of the short time [they] have at practice during the day for dance team, [they] are much more focused on the choreography.” The dance team includes people with different levels of experience, which is important because “it is a place that really stresses community.” Wang, who has been on the team since its first year in the 2014-2015 school year, appreciates the enthusiasm the Riverdale community has for the dance team, as the number of people on team has almost doubled between its first year and now. According to Wang: “It doesn’t matter if you have no experience, but as long as you’re able to commit to the team and give it your all during practice, that's what really matters.”