- January 31, 2020
After a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic, the Dr. Phillips High School Dance Magnet returned with its first performance at the end of February.
The Dance in Motion company members traveled to Vancouver, Washington, to perform in the Regional High School Dance Festival.
Students were offered the opportunity to engage and socialize with dancers from 15 other high schools, perform selected choreography and even audition for summer and collegiate studies with recruiters from more than 20 universities.
The festival selected three of the magnet’s pieces to be performed, including student-choreographed “Detours,” by Bella Crews; “Into the Storm,” choreographed by Jon Lehrer; and “Hoopla,” choreographed by dance director Kathy Follensbee.
Crews, a senior at Dr. Phillips, said “Detours” was an experience like no other, with the process being interesting and helping her to understand people better. She said she is proudest of this piece.
Follensbee said the event was even more special because the dancers opened and closed the Saturday night gala.
“All the teachers loved our kids because of their strength, their ability to sequence and do all styles, and they know their bodies very well,” the director explained.
She said regionals was a wonderful weekend filled with lots of opportunities for the students, even though the magnet typically steers away from competition settings.
“Walking through a museum, you don’t have a number one artwork, it's all beautiful, it's all designed to make you think or feel, just like every student is unique and special in what they create,” Follensbee said.
The Dance Magnet began in 1991, four years after Dr. Phillips opened in 1987.
The program’s mission is to prepare serious dancers for college and professional work in various styles of dance.
Dancers who demonstrate advanced professionalism, movement proficiency, acquisition and performance skills in all genres will be invited to join the company.
Follensbee said members must maintain high academics, a healthy body and collegial spirit.
Students who audition into the program have the opportunity to learn repertoire from various guest artists and travel throughout the county, state and nation for various dance festivals and community performances.
This year’s Dance in Motion members are Nadia Allen, Bella Anderson, Aidan Branham, Cristina Coterillo, Bella Crews, Angie Figueroa, KaYori Harris, Ariaghna Parrilla, Valeria Perez, Reese Rutherford, Jazzy Thomas and Dakota Walker.
Senior and Dance Magnet President Cristina Coterillo said she loves the opportunities she’s been given in the magnet.
“I truly feel that this program has helped to prepare me for the professional world and for life beyond high school,” Coterillo said. “I want to leave knowing that I made a difference. I want to show artists that you can always grow and learn more.”
The program also has additional opportunities including Introduction to the Company Experience, for students not in the company who come together to learn how to become company members, and Relevate in Search of Excellence, a new partnership started with Orlando Ballet which includes practices and performances to give others in the company more opportunity and experience.
Follensbee said she hopes each child who comes into the magnet learns to love herself.
“I hope they celebrate the gift that they bring, because it's very unique,” she said. “The hope is that each person instead of focusing on jealousy or resentment finds that we are stronger as a collaboration than we are as … individuals.”
THE SHOW WILL GO ON
This year’s theme for the program is incredibly fitting: “The show will go on, in spite of…”
Follensbee said the studio has been a remarkable place for recovery, especially with the past turbulent years from the pandemic.
“When you cross the threshold into the dance studio, you can feel the sweat and the love and the care; we call it our sacred space,” she said. “(The pandemic) was so hard on everyone, trying to keep them upbeat and keep them going.”
The students even had to train to dance with a mask on, which they did in Vancouver.
As part of the “Hoopla” performance, the magnet created six-foot hoops to represent social distancing and all of the “hoops” the students had to jump through to navigate the chaos of the pandemic.
The students even put together a video to show what this looks like in the classroom and in the halls.
Although the program is smaller and more intimate than usual because of the pandemic, Follensbee said the students continue to inspire her and have actually blossomed.
“I just love the fact that I can come in here and dance and be with people who really understand the way my brain works creatively,” Crews said. “It’s really helped me grow as an artist and as a person, especially during the pandemic.”
Follensbee is the full-time dance director at Dr. Phillips Visual and Performing Arts High School, as well as an adjunct professor of Ballet & Modern with Valencia College.
With 36 years of service in the public school educational system, she is passionate about bringing dance arts to all through a curriculum focusing on creativity, collaboration, critical thinking and communication skills.
“(The studio is) a safe place for students to come in and be surrounded with like-minded people,” she said. “When you are around other people who think how you think, it's like magic happens.”
As dance director, Follensbee believes in athletic dancers, big movement and saying yes to as many opportunities and experiences for the dancers as she can.
She said the students are now working on preparing for their upcoming shows which include Elements of Dance, which showcases a variety of unique new choreography, a Student Showcase, a student-run concert featuring works choreographed by students including selected music videos and the Senior VPA Recital, which encompasses all of the DPHS Visual and Performing Arts strands where seniors from each strand will also perform their last works as a high school student in front of their peers, administrators, teachers and family.
In the future, she said she hopes to continue to grow the program and make sure other students have the opportunities to learn and to find a way to make the world a better place.
Elements of Dance: 7 p.m. Saturday, March 26
Student Showcase: 7 p.m. Thursday, April 14
Senior VPA Recital: 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 10
For tickets information, click here.