SHS Dances Its Way To PE Class

Grace Cheng and Hyunjin Lee

When thinking about the SHS P.E. curriculum, soccer, running, basketball, and weight training are some of the usual activities that come to mind. Few will think dance could be part of P.E. In fact, many do not even consider dance a sport. “Dance does fall under art, but it could also definitely fall under physical education,” said SHS Physical Education teacher Margaret Bryant.  “Dance teaches you how to move your body in different ways using different dynamics.”

The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (AAADT) is a modern dance company based in New York City. It was founded in 1958 by choreographer and dancer Alvin Ailey Jr. AAADT and its related Ailey School was created in order to develop Black artists and express the African-American experience through dance. Ailey’s combination of theater, modern dance, ballet, jazz, and Black vernacular helps spread global awareness of Black life in America. He choreographed Revelations, the celebrated piece that SHS students are currently learning in several P.E. classes. “Revelations is a signature piece because it is timeless; it’s about fairness and equality for all people—it’s about life,” said Bryant.

This is not the first time students at Scarsdale have had the pleasure of learning modern dance with the Alvin Ailey Dance Company. Students at SMS have also had a taste of modern dance and have even had the opportunity to watch Alvin Ailey artists perform Revelations in 2018. “When I first saw their performance, I didn’t have much reaction, but looking back on their performance now, I think their dancing was really captivating and expressive,” commented Erika Wu ’23.

Now, students at SHS will have the opportunity to perform. Several SHS P.E. classes have had the pleasure of welcoming three artists in residence: Theara Ward, Wayne Williams, and Joseph Barnes. During their classes, it quickly becomes evident that they are all passionate about dance and music. “I came to New York when I was 12, and I watched some friends and cousins practicing dance routines. The dance was more of a couple’s dance, but they were so into it. Up until then, I didn’t really know anything about dance; they really inspired me,” explained Williams. Williams enjoyed teaching dancing so much that he has already come back to teach modern dance at SHS three times. “I really enjoy seeing how kids react when I teach them how to dance. I remember this one student who was really shy, but once she started dancing, she was ten times better than everyone else,” said Williams. “People like that attract me because they’re like little hermits, but when they get on stage they become a different person. That reminds me of myself,” he added.

Once performances begin, anyone who has P.E. during the periods that performances occur can watch and cheer on their peers. “Personally, I feel nervous about performing in front of other people, especially because I haven’t danced since elementary school,” remarked Alison Jiang ’23, who is a part of the dance unit. “However, the dance instructors from Alvin Ailey are kind and encouraging, which makes the experience a lot better and more liberating,” added Jiang. Ultimately, having dance as a part of the P.E. curriculum allows students to freely express themselves without feeling embarrassed or ashamed. “I think with dance, it’s not only physical—you’re expressing yourself,” concluded Williams.

Scarsdale High School PE dance during their respective class periods. (Maroon)