Kent’s dance program has much to offer. There is something for everyone in the dance program, and they open their arms to students with any experience and special interest.
The Kent School Dance Ensemble has been newly renamed this year, with the potential to add a Kent School Dance Company with dancers who perform outside of campus. Ms. Holohan-Guarieri arranged this to allow more space for diversity in the dance program and more opportunities to explore and grow within and outside the school. One of her goals as a director is “to make dance more accessible here at Kent,” she says. “I want to value everyone’s embodied cultural knowledge: someone who comes in might have trained in hip-hop their whole life and has never taken a ballet or tap class—I don’t want to lose that kid.” She hopes to create an environment where students of all dance backgrounds can engage in any dance form Kent offers.
KSDE currently offers ballet, jazz, tap, modern, contemporary, and musical theatre, the latter two of which are new. The interests of the dancers are very diverse: for example, Missy Quinlan ‘22, one of the captains, has trained exclusively as a hip-hop and street dancer prior to Kent, but she had no difficulty at all finding a second home in the Ensemble. “KSDE has been very welcoming and accepting,” she says. “I don’t feel out of place in my ballet or contemporary classes even though I’m not as experienced.” She also describes how the Ensemble is very tight-knit and would come together as a family during performance rehearsals. Elizabeth Kennedy ‘22 and Jessie Wang ‘23 are the other captains of the Fall term activity, and their upcoming performance, “The Natural World” honors the Science Department, following their tradition of honoring a different academic department each Fall. There are also new electives exploring other styles of dance that dancers can choose from, though scheduling is a challenge the Ensemble is currently figuring out.
The Dance Team, on the other hand, is a student-run club and allows any interested student to explore different paths in dance without a large commitment. With the Ensemble meeting six times a week, dancers describe it to be equal to a varsity sport, and the Dance Team, meeting only once a week, hopes to involve more Kent students and allow those who didn’t choose the Dance Ensemble as their activity to perform on stage as well. The Team focuses on hip-hop and jazz, which is different from what the activity offers. “Some students get put off by the idea of ballet or tap classes,” says Quinlan, also the captain for the Team, “so we’re offering something a bit more familiar.” Neely Ewy ‘22 is the co-captain, while Kennedy and Tara Edwards ‘23 are student leaders.
One of Ms. Holohan-Guarnieri’s goals is to involve dance in more campus events. They’re currently choreographing for a performance at the sports game in mid-November and during the varsity basketball half-time shows in the winter term. While Quinlan choreographs most of the hip-hop pieces, some students in the Team have plans to choreograph personalized pieces with their experiences in other styles of dance, such as incorporating breakdancing and elements of gymnastics. “We have students from all over the school show up: basketball players, those who don’t play a sport for their activities; it’s a really diverse group,” says Quinlan. Ms. Holohan-Guarieri loves the atmosphere of the group and is amazed to find out that there are so many Kent students who she didn’t know are “secret dancers in their rooms.”
With the many restrictions placed last year due to the pandemic, Ms. Holohan-Guarieri found it incredibly difficult teaching students intense choreography while masked. “I would often find that my voice was gone by the night, and it was hard not seeing the dancers’ faces.” Despite the hardships, the Ensemble still put on an uplifting performance, and the instructors all feel very grateful for the gradual return to normal.
The dance program has grown exponentially after the COVID-stuck year, adding three new academic courses—Introduction to Dance, Percussive Dance Types, and Dance Composition—and inviting master teachers to come to campus to teach their specialties. Miss Heather is hopeful for more students to join both the Dance Ensemble and Team, and for students to enjoy themselves and put on the very best shows.