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Just dance

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Just dance

Junior Mia Pearce performs at half time during the boys varsity basket- ball game against McLean on Dec. 10.

Junior Mia Pearce performs at half time during the boys varsity basket- ball game against McLean on Dec. 10.

photo provided by Dimensions

Junior Mia Pearce performs at half time during the boys varsity basket- ball game against McLean on Dec. 10.

photo provided by Dimensions

photo provided by Dimensions

Junior Mia Pearce performs at half time during the boys varsity basket- ball game against McLean on Dec. 10.

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As the music begins, the varsity dance team members let the adrenaline take over and the muscle memory kick in while the crowd looks on enthusiastically. 

The varsity dance team consists of 17 girls, which is 10 more members than last year. They meet three times a week to rehearse dances that are performed at basketball games and a Kabbalat Shabbat. 

Any student is eligible to join the team, as long as they have some sort of previous dance experience. Boys have been a part of the team in the past, but none are aboard this season. According to senior and captain Dana Fishkin, this year, everyone who tried out made the team, but that is not the case each season.

Lower School Physical Education teacher and coach Claire Zagami has led the team for six years. Zagami has allowed the experienced dancers to take control of choreography, while she is responsible for polishing and finalizing the dances. At the beginning of each season, Fishkin is the primary choreographer, but as the season progresses, every member has the opportunity to create dances. 

Fishkin has served as dance team captain for three years and has been a part of the group since eighth grade. She joined not just because of her passion for the sport but also as a way to meet students from other grades. As a captain, she has a new appreciation for the way a captain can shape others’ experiences in the sport. 

“I really like being able to feel like I can positively influence a girl’s experience of dance and give them a place to feel like they can freely be creative and not feel judged,” Fishkin said. 

According to Athletic Director Becky Silberman, the dance team used to perform at competitions in the early 2000s. However, throughout her time as coach, Zagami has never considered expanding the group into a formal competitive dance team. She prefers the team to stay school-based because it allows for a relaxed and inclusive environment. 

“You don’t have enough time for growth if it’s just a competition mindset,” Zagami said. 

Throughout the school day, junior Mia Pearce always looks forward to practice for its upbeat and supportive environment. 

“It doesn’t matter what grade you’re in. It doesn’t matter what friend group you’re in,” Pearce said. “It doesn’t matter what classes you’re in. We’re just all there to dance, have fun and work hard together.”

While the group itself is dedicated, the student body does not legitimize or recognize the dance team as much as other sports, such as basketball. To remedy this, Fishkin wants to have more opportunities to perform in front of the student body.

 “Students would take dance team more seriously and see that we’re a talented group of girls,” Fishkin said.

While the team performs during halftime at many basketball games, they are prohibited from performing at games against arch-rival Melvin J. Berman Hebrew Academy Cougars out of respect for their religious traditions, according to Dean of Students Roslyn Landy. Fishkin understands the basis of this restriction, yet she still believes it should be revised. 

“It’s quite appropriate that we don’t perform at [Hebrew Academy] but in our school, I think it’s a different story,” Fishkin said. “We have different customs and we can still respect theirs by giving people the opportunity to get up and leave if they don’t want to be there.” 

Pearce agrees with Fishkin and says that it is unfair to prohibit the team from performing on their home turf during the most attended game of the basketball season. As the team is rapidly growing in members, they hope that the administration will consider their opinions. 

“We work so hard all season and most of the kids at JDS never even get to see us perform,” Pearce said. “We really want to perform at the game, especially this year, now that we have become so big and our choreography and members are stronger than ever.”  

According to Silberman, the team has never been permitted to perform at Hebrew Academy games, and as a sign of respect, she does not think this should change. 

“It is a community event and you don’t want to exclude people… it would create lots of discomfort for a lot of people,” Silberman said. 

Even though the school hasn’t changed its policy, the team may be evolving in other ways. This year, the middle school created a dance elective and varsity members are enthusiastic about the future of dance at JDS. Pearce is confident that the increased interest in the dance team will prompt the school to improve the sport’s resources with a proper location to practice, as they currently rehearse in the cafeteria or cardo. 

“It would be really cool to see dance education and the sport grow at JDS,” Pearce said.

This story was featured in the Volume 36, Issue 3 edition of The Lion’s Tale, published on Dec. 20, 2018.

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