CCA conservatory students work with CASA to produce unique dance show
CCA's Arts and Humanities Conservatory partnerships bring cultural value — and lasting memories — to its students.
Every year, Commonwealth Charter Academy joins forces with the talented students of the Capital Area School for the Arts Charter School — a Harrisburg-based multidisciplinary arts academy — to create a unique dance show that is performed for the public.
This year, the theme was “Tribute to the ‘80s.” Fifteen CCA learners, along with eight CASA students from the Arts and Humanities Conservatory program, had three weeks to learn a dynamic, action-packed medley organized by David Ogden, a local professional choreographer.
This was the fourth year that CCA and CASA partnered to produce a show. After two years of performing "Thriller," and last year’s celebration of diversity with “Dance Around the World,” a 1980s-themed dance seemed to find the perfect balance between challenging and exciting.
This year, the schools decided to try a new twist by introducing a vocal element. Three students performed renditions of popular ‘80s songs, including Michael Jackson’s “Beat It,” Young MC’s “Bust a Move” and Cindy Lauper’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.” The show's youngest participant — a CCA fourth-grader — took the spotlight with the classic Michael Jackson hit.
While the performance offered high-energy entertainment, the work behind the show was about something much more lasting.
“Being a part of dance and music bridges the gap between today and the culture of the ‘80s and helps kids to connect the dots between music and choreography,” said Stephanie Goforth, CCA’s Arts and Humanities Conservatory manager. “Students find it so empowering and rewarding. Even those that are nervous are beaming after the performances — it’s a real transformative experience.”
Rosemary Battista, dance instructor at CASA and the event’s adviser, echoed the same sentiment.
“I believe students should have more exposure as far as teachers go, so the ability to learn under a choreographer like David is an enriching experience,” she said.
CCA and CASA: Charting a new course together
CCA’s partnership with CASA started four years ago with the birth of their dance event. The relationship has been beneficial for both charter schools, and it is one they plan to continue.
“The collaboration has been great for CASA students,” Battista said. “The CASA students are leading warmups, because they are intermediate to high-level dancers and typically have more dance experience. It gives them the opportunity to serve as mentors. It’s always advantageous to collaborate with other schools and break out of your box.”
As for CCA students, Goforth said the partnership gives them a chance to practice in a real studio and provides an experience they might not otherwise be exposed to. “I’ve seen this opportunity inspire kids to start dancing, which they often continue to do.”
This is the only partnership CCA has of this kind, but Goforth said she would love to see the program expand and she hopes to connect with other performing arts schools around the state in the near future.
It’s the teamwork that makes the experience important for students. “It teaches transferable skills like collaboration, mental and physical memorization, often provides new friendships and helps to form well-rounded individuals,” Goforth said.