Last February, Green Hope announced they would be cutting the dance program, to the anger and frustration of many. Dancers used this class as an outlet to express themselves and as a space free of judgment. Alaina Isaak, a senior who had been in the dance program since her freshman year said, “Dance, in general, is a therapy for me, the dance program was a good outlet to have in school, and a great stress reliever”. Claire Sciandra, a senior, who feels similarly, explained, “Dance is a healthy way for myself and other students to express our emotions”. Many students shared these sentiments, and now with the program gone, all that remains for them is a sense of disappointment and loss.
The dissolution of the dance program was not just a loss for dancers, but a loss for equity in the Green Hope community. For many, dance was a space of equality and opportunity, enabling students to have the chance to dance who normally might not normally have the resources to do so outside of school. For many, local dance studio tuition is too expensive, especially high-quality instruction like the Green Hope dance program provided. Another senior involved in the dance program, Ashley Habig, said, “At my studio, I do not regularly get to choreograph my own dances or collaborate with other dancers, but at Green Hope I could, which was an opportunity for me to improve my choreography skills”. Even for students that are fortunate enough to attend dance classes outside of school, the dance program allowed more independence and encouraged dancers to grow in ways that are not possible at their studios.
Beyond equity, the dance program played a major role in promoting athleticism and health among Green Hope students. students spend the entire day at school sitting at their desks only to go home and lounge on their couch. Everyone should exercise, particularly teenagers that may not have the desire or motivation to workout after school. Many students use dance as an enjoyable way to get their bodies moving and to stay fit. Alaina said that the dance program had several levels, so even students that had never danced before could still join Dance 1. They would get a solid workout while acquiring new skills and enjoying themselves. Students learn life long skills in dance that they may not learn in other classes, such as time management, dedication, and creativity. Even students who do not plan on pursuing a career in dance can still benefit from the lessons the class teaches.
The dance program held two shows open to the public that helped to fund the dance program. The shows featured performances from all levels as well as a closing number with all dancers. The dancers choreographed a majority of their performances including solos, duets, trios, and group dances. Parents and friends of the dancers enjoyed watching the dancers showcase what they work on in class every day. Chiara Santajuliana, a student at Green Hope and a friend of many students in the dance program said “I enjoyed the lighting, theatrics, and how hard-working the dancers are.”
Dancers also relied heavily on the director of the program, Mrs. Nikki Wadia, was described as a kind, understanding, hardworking, and loving woman by various students. For many students, Mrs. Wadia is a role model who cared about each student’s growth in dance and in life. Claire described many occasions where Mrs. Wadia checked in on students and made sure they were putting their mental health before anything. Due to the school cutting the dance program, Mrs. Wadia is no longer a faculty member at Green Hope.
Even though Mrs.Wadia is gone, her vision continues, and Green Hope students are persevering to bring the Dance program back. One of the biggest efforts came in February of 2020, when students went to the school board and spoke about why the necessity of a dance program at Green Hope. In this meeting, students independently expressed the value of dance classes and why they believe schools should take it more seriously. The dancers described the life skills they learned through taking the class and why other students should learn those skills as well. Beyond meetings with the school board, students have also fought for the dance program through petitions as well. One student, Ashley Habig, organized a petition signed by almost 3,000 students and parents across Wake County in honor of bringing dance back. Though the students succeeded in getting their voices recognized, unfortunately, Green Hope did not bring the program back. Regardless, the struggle continues, and students hope to persuade Green Hope to bring dance back for the 2021-2022 school year.