More than 200 parents and nervous third-graders packed the auditorium at P.S. 105 for the end of the year dance recital on Friday, June 4. The parents were quiet and supportive, while the students could barely sit still in their seats. Since January, they had been practicing their moves with the Bronx Dance Theatre, and Friday they would finally get to show them off.
After assistant principal Evelyn Alier calmed the students down, she said the show would be starting. Students filling up the first five rows broke into cheers. But it was nothing compared to the applause after the first dance troupe finished the first routine. They danced to “Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson and their routine ended with several students flying through the air in cartwheels and break dancing steps.
“You’re not going to see anything better than this. And it was just 16 weeks to not only learn technique, but then learn a number,” Bronx Dance Theatre executivedDirector Neal Bernstein said.
In total, the Bronx Dance Theatre taught 175 third-graders the dancing steps through an afterschool program funded by a $25,000 grant from Councilman Jimmy Vacca. The funding is given annually as part of Councilman Vacca’s efforts to support the arts, which are typically the areas first hit when school budgets are strained.
According to Alier, the school has continued to see strong participation in the afterschool dance program. Each year between 8 and 11 classes have participated, which typically means about 200 kids attend the classes each year.
“It started out small, but it’s progressing, it’s gotten larger,” Alier said, adding that the school is planning several more end of the year dance recitals this soon. However, because of funding cut backs, many of the programs could be cut back in years to come, she said. “We’re glad that [Councilman Vacca] paid for this, but next year it may be an issue. So if he continues with this, we’re great.”
Bernstein, who instructed the students over the 16-week period, said that sometimes teaching nearly 200 kids after school can be hectic, but after several years working with P.S. 105, things are running smoothly. During this school year, his dance troupe has taught between 1,300 and 1,500 students across the borough.
“It’s these initiatives that are keeping the arts in schools with all these cutbacks. The city council has made this part of the budget and that’s how we’re doing it,” he said. “It’s part of your education for your life, not just as a kid.”
According to Dianna Schober, whose son Scott Jr. performed Friday, the dance lessons have helped expose her son to the arts, which he is not typically involved in.
Reach reporter Max Mitchell at (718) 742-3394 or firstname.lastname@example.org