On Friday, June 9, 2017, Trenton Central High School’s Dance Department hosted their sixth dance showcase, New Voices. The Dance Department is part of the Visual and Performing Arts Academy, one of four career-aligned academies under the umbrella of Trenton Central High School. The evening featured performances by students in the Boys Dance Too Ensemble, the Dance I classes, and Choreographer’s Workshop, showcasing a range of experience from students who performed for the first time to those wishing to professionalize. Throughout the evening the celebration of student voice was the unifying factor. All of the pieces presented were either collaboratively choreographed between students and dance educator, Elizabeth Rose Zwierzynski, or completely student conceived, choreographed, and directed.
The six student-choreographed works were the culminating project of the Choreographer’s Workshop class. The pieces ranged from exploring themes of identity, depression, cultural celebration, relationship building, dystopian society, and an exploration of movement qualities. Throughout the semester the students worked up to this project by exploring different improvisation scores and stimulus to inspire movement generation, applying conventional choreographic devices, structures, and forms, and creating proposals for their works including a project description, artistic statement, resume, and biography. After the students proposed their works, they collaboratively split their classmates as cast members and directed student rehearsals for the remainder of the semester. The curricular scope at TCHS presents a gradual release model that informs, nurtures, hones, and presents student voices. As TCHS Principal, Hope Grant, reflected in her closing announcement at the showcase, “This is a program that allows the students to become the teachers, and the teacher to become the facilitator”.
In its third year, the TCHS Dance Department has demonstrated growth in curricular development, student recognition, and community partnerships. This year marks the program’s first professionalization of two dancers who are choosing to study dance at the collegiate level. We are also proud to announce 2017 graduate, Jose Lapaz-Rodriguez, was named the Dance Recipient for the NJ 2017 State Showcase Scholarship. Community partnerships were strengthened in and outside of the classroom. During the fall, all male modern dance company, 10 Hairy Legs, was in residence with the Dance Performance Skills students. Additionally, Trenton is one of the Kennedy Center’s partner sites for Ensuring the Arts for Any Given Child.
The program assists communities in developing and implementing a plan for expanded arts education in their schools, ensuring access and equity for all students through the model of collective impact. As dance continues to develop in Trenton, I would be remiss if I did not thank the leadership for supporting the vision for a strong dance education. Many thanks are in order to Vice Principal of the Visual and Performing Arts Academy, Melissa Wyatt, Principal of Trenton Central High School, Hope Grant, and Supervisor of Fine & Performing Arts, Norberto Diaz. As we gear up for next year, I am wishing all NJ arts educators and arts partners a restful summer.
Elizabeth Rose Zwierzynski B.F.A., Ed.M
Visual & Performing Arts Academy
Trenton Central High School