Belmont secondary students Kailee Verrin and Hallie Echlin’s thoughts never stray too far from the dance floor. From subtle toe-tapping while doing homework to full-blown dreams, the girls often have dance on their minds.
And it was a dream that inspired Verrin to come up with a new angle for her group’s student-choreographed routine.
The Grade 10 student, excited by the concept that had come to her in the middle of the night, immediately texted her group so she wouldn’t forget about it in the morning.
“The next day we put it all together and it looks really cool now, because it’s like my dream in my head came to life on stage,” she says.
The routine will be a part of a grander, two-night performance from Belmont’s dancers that will showcase what the school’s various classes, from the less experienced to more advanced, have learned so far this year.
In addition to the routines created by students, Verrin and Echlin will be performing a larger routine with their whole class, titled the “Sound of Silence,” incorporating a remix of the classic Simon and Garfunkel tune.
That emotional, and at times sad, routine will come with its own set of challenges, as the dancers explain.
“We’re always having so much fun and then you have to be sad and it’s so hard,” Echlin says.
“When you’re on stage you just have to think about these really emotional thoughts,” Verrin agrees.
The other advanced class will be performing to Eric Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven.”
The show will be the program’s first of the school year and will highlight the various dance styles that students have been working on, including hip hop, lyrical and jazz.
Giving the opportunity for the students to come up with their own choreographed routines was an important piece for dance teacher Leslie Conway.
“They got to pick the style, so most of them pick a style that they’re most comfortable and confident in, and that they enjoy the most,” she says.
“I kind of mentor them through the choreography process. Lots of the students have tons of ideas in choreography. It’s something that just comes flowing out of them. So those ones I kind of just get going on the path and they take off on their own.”
The advanced classes will go on to perform at a festival this spring and with many students new to performing, this month’s shows will be a good opportunity to shed some of the nerves that inevitably accompany live performance.
“My favourite part of the program is that students who don’t get to dance outside of school due to time, or cost, or even just availability, are able to do so in their timetable at school,” Conway says. The absence of cost for the program is due to the fact it’s part of the regular school curriculum.
While a love of dance and the relationships they’ve built with their fellow students are driving factors for the students in their enjoyment of the program, so, too, is their instructor.
“She’s very helpful and caring. She’s helpful with not just dance, but with life in general,” Verrin says of Conway.
“She gets to know you in such a personal way and she takes the time to get to know all of us,” adds Echlin.
Verrin still has a couple of years to decide what she’d like to pursue after high school, but she’s already thinking she’d like to continue with dance in some capacity.
Echlin, a Grade 12 student, echoes those sentiments. “I really want to be a dance teacher and open my own studio … We have really good friends in this class. We should do it together,” she says.
Evidently, the dreams have only begun.