WEST ORANGE, NJ — The inaugural year of the West Orange High School dance program “raised the barre” for students and dancers, and even more is planned in the 2017-18 school year.
Dance teacher Melissa Sande is more than up to the task of developing the program, which completed the first year of Dance I. Sande received a bachelor of fine arts degree from Montclair State University and her master’s degree in education from Rutgers University. She is certified to teach dance K-12 in both New York and New Jersey. The program is overseen by district fine arts supervisor Lou Quagliato.
“The Dance I program content incorporated the four cornerstones of dance as art in education,” Sande said, adding that students learned technique, composition, background and development of a critical eye. “As we begin the second year of the program we will have Dance I and Dance II, and students in Dance II will see the elements of performance skills and stagecraft integrated into the program.”
For the 2017-18 school year, Sande expects close to 80 students will participate, with two Dance II classes and four Dance I classes. Next year, the Dance III program will be developed as Dance II students move on.
Students interested in pursuing dance after high school comprise the bulk of students interested in studying dance, but athletes, artists and fledgling dancers also took the courses. Jazz, step, ballet, hip-hop and modern dance were studied.
Two 2017 graduates, Cameron Bridgers and Kennedy Fort-Foske were instrumental in the first year of the program. Bridgers represented the State of New Jersey at the NJPTA Reflections Art program, choreographing her own dance. She will be attending Temple University, majoring in dance and studying kinesiology.
“I am so grateful to Mr. Quagliato and Ms. Sande for giving me a place in the school where I could nurture my art and truly express myself in a comfortable setting. I cannot wait to see where the future takes me, and wherever it does I know I’ll be dancing,” Bridgers said.
Fort-Foskey will attend Drexel University and major in design and merchandising. She will minor in dance and perform with the Drexel Dance Team.
Like all fine arts programs at West Orange High School, the dance department will hold its first-ever recital in the coming school year.
“This is such a special place,” Sande said of WOHS. “It already feels like home.”