For three nights last week, the Assembly Room was transformed into an electrifying performance space of colorful lights, spellbinding music and captivating dancers whose commitment, talent and imagination were on proud display.
The culmination of months of hard work, the much-anticipated Dance Club show offered a thrilling two hours of entertainment on April 26, 27 and 28. The Club’s 55 students presented eclectic dances that -- through modern, jazz, hip-hop, ballet, tap and other genres -- celebrated a diversity of cultures and styles. Among the solo, pairs and ensemble dances performed were a Bollywood-inspired piece, an interpretation of a traditional Korean fan dance and a salsa-influenced number. Some, explained Dance Club Director Sarah Rutledge*, reflected current political beliefs while others were simply about high-tempo enjoyment.
One of the most enduring student clubs at Chapin – the 2018 show was the Club’s 79th performance – Dance Club is open to all students in Classes 8-12, regardless of experience. While dancing is an essential component of the Club, choreography factors in considerably, giving students the opportunity to explore the entire compositional process and, ultimately, to see their choreographed works come to life.
As this writer learned, however, the experience of being in Dance Club transcends the beautifully synchronized moments on stage. Several students shared their feelings about belonging to this distinctive club:
- “Dance Club means so much to me. Not only is it a place where I feel I can express myself and my emotions to the fullest extent, it is also a family. Through collaboration and encouragement, we all push each other to be passionate and creative, and I love that about the club…I can assure you that wherever you fall on the ‘level of dance’ spectrum, you will find your place in Dance Club.”
- “Dance Club serves as an outlet and drawing board for me to broadcast my passion for this particular art and to create little pieces I have always dreamed of doing. It provides an opportunity for me to take all the moments of me blasting music and dancing alone in my room and at school into a piece that represents all the hard work that has been put into it.”
- “For me, Dance Club creates a space in which everyone can express creativity and art in a really safe sharing environment. It means support and is an extension of the close-knit Chapin community. It allows for people to exhibit their hard work in a more fun, relaxed way, and it requires a different kind of teamwork.”
- “Dance Club is a space where I can try out different dance styles, receive constructive feedback, meet new people, and be part of a family.”
- “The Club means so much to me as it has allowed me to further explore dance in ways I had not done so prior to joining and introduced me to some of my best friends. It embodies love, passion, creativity and inter-grade bonding.”
- “Dance Club means unity. It means people coming together from all different interests, backgrounds, and academic strengths and falling under one roof to create art. Dance Club means a family, a community that promotes strength and empowerment to its young students.”
- “I never thought I would find myself to be so invested in dance, but I have truly found my new passions, discovered new talents, and met new people. I came from a somewhat athletic background, but I have devoted my heart and soul to this club! You will find that the members of Dance Club become your best friends and even your family. This is by far the best way to get integrated in the Upper School.”
Ms. Rutledge, who has been overseeing Dance Club for the past 17 years, added: “It is incredibly rewarding to see students push themselves to take risks, wrestle with how to best express their ideas, drum up the courage to put their ideas out there, and eventually share and express with confidence a part of themselves. The audience gets to see the polished product, which is always exciting, but the process of getting there is what keeps me engaged.”
At the end of the final performance, as the dancers clasped hands and took their well-earned bows, it was difficult not to smile along with these triumphant students who have discovered so much about themselves and each other through the gorgeous discipline of dance.
*Along with Dance Club Director Sarah Rutledge, Head of Drama Luc Hotaling (Technical Director/Lighting Design) and Dance Associate Teacher Samantha Sherman (Production/Rehearsal Assistant) contribute to the Club’s success.
Browse photos (taken by Michael Sherman) from the Dance Club performances below: