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Opinion: A space for dance in the arts program

Published February 6, 2014

While the arrival of the new gym on campus promises opportunities for future generations of athletes, it also opens a possibility for an expansion of the Visual and Performing Arts program here on campus.

Palo Alto High School desperately needs to expand its arts program in the field of dance.

Currently, there are three periods of Dance offered for Physical Education credit. Nowhere in the Paly course catalog is there any mention of a dance program offered for arts credit, even though dance is more commonly considered an art form rather than a sport.

Paly should be offering the opportunity for students to participate in a well rounded dance program because it is a fun way to move around during the school day, de-stress, and gain appreciation for the art form. Dance should not be used as a crutch for the current lack of motivation and understanding of the regular P.E courses.

The opening of the new gym will include a state-of-the-art dance studio, which would provide a great opportunity to start a new dance program for arts credit. This program could include what seems standard in the other arts courses currently being offered. The dance program could give the opportunity for students to perform at shows, create new pieces, and learn from other artists.

This system is already in place at Mountain View High School, where many students view taking a dance class as a fun way to get involved with a larger group on campus; there are multiple levels and styles of dance offered to students of any grade. This program, referred to by the school as “Dance Spectrum,” gives arts credit and is considered a standard class, but also holds multiple performances and events throughout the year involving all the sections.

“Dance Spectrum has around 200 dancers total, and there are four class periods,” said Jamie Bindon, a senior at Mountain View High School. “Three of them are a beginning level jazz class, an one of which is an advanced jazz class. We have one incredible teacher, Ms. Rosburg, who helps us out in every way possible, but besides her support, Dance Spectrum is student-run.”

Bindon feels that dance is the perfect way to bring together different types of people.

“Dance Spectrum brings together people of all different backgrounds: varying dance ability, gender, religion, ethnicity and economic status,” Bindon said. “It’s accessible to all students, providing them with the opportunity to take a dance class, an outlet they may not have had otherwise. Ultimately, it unites students through an impartial art form: dance.”

Paly already has a strong arts program in place, however many students in the art program want the opportunity to take their dancing to a more advanced level than what the school currently offers.

“Dancing is an important part of musical theater and music, and I feel that I have not gotten as good of a dance education as my theater and music education have been,” said Paly senior Sarah Ohlson, who is currently both the Thespian president and treasurer of the Paly Choirs. “There aren’t flexible dance options for me outside of our school, and I feel that a dance program at Paly would give students the opportunity to dance casually, which you can’t get somewhere else.”

Many students and teachers alike at Paly are in support of this new addition to the arts program here on campus.

“I think a dance program would be beneficial, because although Dance P.E. offers basic dance skills there are many advanced dancers who would like to be challenged with more dance as well as beginners who would like to continue dancing past Dance P.E.,” said Paly junior Jamie Garcia, who is currently a captain of the Paly Dance Team. “Many people want to continue with dance but don’t want to repeat the same general dance class again.”

Michael Najar, Visual and Performing Arts Department Instructional Supervisor, said that adding a dance program could be an important addition to his department.

“I think it would benefit the Visual and Performing Arts program hugely, we would love to have something like this,” Najar said. “There is no question that we would love to have a stronger and more integrated dance program in the arts.”

Because dance is not an art form that requires instruments or props, a dance program would be relatively low budget and easy to maintain. There are countless qualified dance teachers throughout the Bay Area, and under the direction of current Dance P.E. teacher Kay Gibson they would be able to teach many levels and styles of dance that students show interest in.

It seems as though this is an excellent program waiting to happen that just needs a boost to get off the ground. The opening of the new gym and dance studio is the perfect time to make a new addition to the arts family here on our campus. As the athletics of our school take a step forward, let’s bring the arts program along with it.


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