StarQuestian Spotlight – School of Dreams Academy Dance Team
March 1st, 2017 by Roy Patterson
For this month’s StarQuestian Spotlight, I chose to highlight the School of Dreams Academy Dance Team from Los Lunas, New Mexico. Operating as an extra-curricular program at School of Dreams Academy, the S.O.D.A. dancers are their school’s primary competitive sport and competed at StarQuest Albuquerque for the first time this February.
The S.O.D.A charter school operates under a S.T.E.A.M curriculum which concentrates on science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics in order to encourage students to approach their education from a multi-disciplinary lens. Prior to the competition – I had the opportunity to speaking with the S.O.D.A. Dance Team’s director – Mrs. McNiel – and learn about her experience training dancers within a S.T.E.A.M. charter school environment.
How does it differ working in a school environment, as opposed to operating as an independent studio?
A studio owned dance company is run like any other business and for many owners, it is their livelihood. Producing wonderful dancers is a key, however to keep your doors open, volume is most important. With a school environment however, dance education is the focus, and a requirement for graduation. We do not have any after school sports, our dance team is the schools primary competitive activity. Whereas an independent studio can have hundreds of students and operate primarily after school, evenings, and on weekends – I have only 140 students and my hours are consistent with a traditional school day. All students at S.O.D.A. are exposed to ballet, tap, and hip hop – allowing them to learn them all, and I accomplish this through rotating styles in lesson plans every two weeks.
How are S.O.D.A.’s core values and beliefs of character education and arts education shown through your classes and performances?
The values set for my dancers can be used for any kind of student: Attendance is key for all dance and academic classes. Good grades along with good behavior is a must throughout the school day. In addition to the stress-relieving benefits of dance class – my dancers learn the importance of teamwork and build character through competition.
How do you ensure that the S.O.D.A. dance team gets a well-rounded dance education in an academic based environment?
As a dance teacher I follow many avenues to keep up with the dance world; going to dance conventions is a must at least twice a year. I read periodicals on new ideas from many dance magazines. I also try to invite master teachers to come teach my students. Going to dance competitions every year is also important to me. So much can be learned by experiencing good competition – not only for myself, but also my dancers. The more knowledge I seek, the better I teach!
How do you promote leadership on the S.O.D.A. dance team? Does your focus on leadership affect your team, both on and off-stage?
A parent once said, “Dance is the pride of our school!” The younger students look up to our competition team and we have team captains to demonstrate leadership. Participating on the dance team is a privilege, and my standards for inclusion are high. Many of these dancers have been with me for six years – which is a lot for a public school system, and I want the best of these students. For the past four years the School of Dreams valedictorian has been a dancer.
What is some advice you’d give other studios about promoting leadership and academic integrity to their dancers?
Set goals and let students know that the healthy habits taught in dance class – including leadership, responsibility, teamwork, and respect – will help them for a lifetime!
What is S.O.D.A.’s dance team’s motto?
DARE TO DREAM!
Do you know an exceptional StarQuestian or StarQuestian studio? Email email@example.com the dancer’s (or studio’s) name, state, and why you think they should be featured! You may see your nominee interviewed in a future StarQuestian Spotlight blog!
Mariel Pauline Rosen is the StarQuest social media concierge. She likes shiny things and believes in your sparkle!