Review of “Creating the Prologue: An Evening of Dance”

On Friday, June 7th, the Bayonne High School Dance Department presented the first ever BHS Dance Concert, entitled “Creating the Prologue”.

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We were fortunate enough to have Dr. Barbara Bashaw, Director of Ed.M. in Dance Education at Mason Gross School of the Arts of Rutgers University in attendance at Friday’s performance. Below is Dr. Bashaw’s review and reflection upon the evening of dance!

 

Prologues and Debuts – The Bayonne High School Dance Department Launches with Success

A dance concert review by Dr. Barbara Bashaw, Mason Gross School of the Arts, Rutgers University

 

Congratulations to Ms. Kelli McGovern, B.F.A, Ed.M., and the community of Bayonne High School faculty and student artists who crafted a truly inspiring evening of dance Friday evening, June 7, 2013, in the Alexander X. O’Connor Auditorium.  The dancers were impassioned, committed and most importantly, EMPOWERED.  Aptly entitled “Creating the Prologue” the Dance Department concert was the first in the school’s history.  The standards were high – it pretty much knocked my socks off — and it left the audience buzzing in anticipation for next year.

 

The concert included ten works composed by Ms. McGovern and five works by Ms. Alexander as well as student choreography and, amazingly, a number of works set to musical scores composed by students in the music program.  An opening suite of dances featured five works organized around themes from J.D. Salinger’s novel, “Catcher in the Rye” and introduced a mesmerizing flow to the evening.  The concert included two classical ballet works performed with delicate gestures by a corps de ballet a-la charming tutus, and a dynamic solo by Ty Tucker who punctuated the evening with a heroic lift.  The evening also included five effervescent musical theater works, four of which were choreographed by Lori Alexander, which demonstrated that these high school performers possess extraordinary theatrical chops.  The audience was also introduced to modern dance as a genre through four powerful works including a rhythmically stylistic work entitled “the search to find a clear spot on frozen glass” and  “Interconnected,” an eloquent trio reminiscent of Martha Graham.  Corryn Defazio, a student choreographer, presented a commanding modern work, entitled “720 Days,” in which the decisive balletic execution and the palpable determination of the dancers felt in every way like college dance.

 

On the face of it, “Creating the Prologue” was a tasteful and elegant evening of dance that kept the audience enthralled at every moment, taking us on a journey through style and form.  Beneath it, however, lays a complex network of educational theory perhaps not quite as obvious.  Let’s take the key competencies of the Common Core Literacy Standards as an example.  This dance concert demonstrated evidence of all seven of the key competencies:  independence; building strong content knowledge; responding to the varying demands of audience, task, and purpose; comprehension as well as critique; valuing evidence; use of technology and digital media strategically (in the music compositions); and coming to understand other perspectives (NGACBP & CCSSO, 2010).

 

What was most striking about the evening, however, was the gradual sense (perceptible to a visitor like myself) that Bayonne High School is very consciously attending to the self-efficacy and empowerment in its young citizens — celebrating and supporting difference and providing a sanctuary for self discovery.  What I experienced in this concert is best described by the following quote:

 

Arts education tests the very principles of democracy – freedom of communicate, freedom to experience, freedom to participate, freedom to choose, freedom to explore one’s potential, and freedom to be an individual with unique beliefs, interests, and talents – for life. (Bonbright, 2007)

 

Through the glowing faces of pride, the committed bodies in motion and the embracing demeanor of the families in the audience, it dawned on me that I was in a very special place.  As an artist, educator and most fundamentally as a parent, every cell of my being was urging me to relocate to the Bayonne public schools.  Teenagers are cared-for, valued people here.

 

 

References:

Bonbright, J. (2007/2000).  National agenda for dance arts education: The evolution of dance as an art form intersects with the evolution of federal interest in, and support of, arts education. NDEO Dancing in the Millennium Conference, Washington, DC, 2000.

National Governors Association Center for Best Practices & Council of Chief State School Officers. (2010). Common Core State Standards for English language arts and literacy in history/social studies, science, and technical subjects. Washington, DC: Authors.