An important milestone in the life of a Boston Arts Academy dancer unfolded last week as 17 seniors presented their 2011 Senior Dance Concert (SDC). How significantly this embodies RICO, our habits of the graduate. Students work for months on invention and revision.  Dancers from professional and pre-professional worlds provide a rigorous process of critique, including one of our own alumni! Seniors cast their pieces, work with lighting and costume designers and write a thoughtful description of their piece. Their writing briefly explains the process and the connections they have made to other dancers and choreographers. Most important, each senior must own the entire process throughout an often tumultuous rehearsal period until the opening night. These are skills that most adults never get to develop.

One of my students used his piece to explore the feelings of not having a father present as he grew up. He wrote in his program notes, “Entering a world where the term “Dad” or “Father” slowly drifted from my vocabulary… I go through life with just the satisfaction of my mother’s presence.” The piece was poignant, passionate and reflective and left me wondering how this young choreographer was only a senior in high school. Other students investigated themes of loss of loved ones, or the power of falling in love.  Some played with abstract ideas about shape and movement. Each piece was technically beautiful and allowed me, as an audience member, to enter into the worlds of my students and learn more about what makes them tick. What a gift.

Besides the obvious enjoyment of sitting in the audience, I loved listening and surreptitiously watching the reactions of other audience members. The 9th grade dance majors must write about each piece as part of their homework assignments in dance. They sat rapt and whispered to one another in between pieces about what they liked or didn’t understand. They know that, all too soon, they will be choreographing and casting, but for now they enjoy these moments of awe and even adoration as they watch their older peers perform. The sound effects of the young children of my faculty gave me such pleasure. Somehow two-year-olds manage to sigh or ooh and ahh in the loudest and most appropriate punctuations. I loved seeing aunts, uncles, cousins, former teachers from middle schools all clapping loudly as these young people performed. The dance teachers were all dressed up, too. Gone was the frustration and even anger at students who were late with their music or who missed rehearsals. All could be forgotten, at least for the performance. Later, they would talk again about deadlines and responsibility. Today we all celebrate.

This concert came at the end of a week filled with Math exhibitions, Sophomore music recitals, 11th grade Visual Arts exhibition, Spanish, Arabic and American Sign Language final exams, preparation for science fair and final due dates for Humanities 3 papers. Every student at BAA had major projects due—snow storms and cancelled school days or not. The overarching message from everywhere was: school matters, your work matters, what you are showing, writing, singing, presenting, computing, explaining is important to this entire community. That is what school should be.

-Linda Nathan
January 2011