News: Arcadia High School and Studios Work Together To Make a Difference

It was a few students in the STAND (Students Taking Action Now Darfur) club who originally suggested that Arcadia High School’s annual fall dance show become an anti-genocide benefit. Now in its fifth year, Dance for Darfur is one of the Phoenix, AZ, school’s most anticipated events. For this year’s concert on November 18 and 19, $5 admission for students and $6 for adults goes toward preventing genocide in Darfur. Five cans for the local food bank will also grant admission. The school’s goal is to raise $4,000 and 4,000 cans. “Teenagers are so into their own world,” says Denise Rapp, Arcadia’s dance teacher and organizer of the event. “Something like this helps them begin to
understand that helping others can enrich their lives.”


Every dance class at Arcadia performs, while advanced students have the chance to choreograph additional dances during class time or on their own. Rapp invites four local dance studios to each perform a piece, bringing the total number of dancers in the show to 200.


Photo: Arcadia students rehearse. (by Danny Cisneros, courtesy of Denise Rapp)

Teaching Tips
A 2019 Dancewave training. Photo by Effy Grey, courtesy Dancewave

By now, most dance educators hopefully understand that they have a responsibility to address racism in the studio. But knowing that you need to be actively cultivating racial equity isn't the same thing as knowing how to do so.

Of course, there's no easy answer, and no perfect approach. As social justice advocate David King emphasized at a recent interactive webinar, "Cultivating Racial Equity in the Classroom," this work is never-ending. The event, hosted by Dancewave (which just launched a new racial-equity curriculum) was a good starting point, though, and offered some helpful takeaways for dance educators committed to racial justice.

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Recently, I posted a thread of tweets elucidating the lack of respect for tap dance in college dance programs, and arguing that it should be a requirement for dance majors.

According to, out of the 30 top-ranked college dance programs in the U.S., tap dance is offered at 19 of them, but only one school requires majors to take more than a beginner course—Oklahoma City University. Many prestigious dance programs, like the ones at NYU Tisch School of the Arts and SUNY Purchase, don't offer a single course in tap dance.

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After months of lockdowns and virtual learning, many studios across the country are opening their doors and returning to in-person classes. Teachers and students alike have likely been chomping at the bit in anticipation of the return of dance-class normalcy that doesn't require a reliable internet connection or converting your living room into a dance space.

But along with the back-to-school excitement, dancers might be feeling rusty from being away from the studio for so long. A loss of flexibility, strength and stamina is to be expected, not to mention emotional fatigue from all of the uncertainty and reacclimating to social activities.

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