Q&A With the 2015 Regional High School Dance Festival Director

Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts students from Dallas in Dwight Rhoden's Testament.

At the Regional High School Dance Festival (which alternates yearly with the National festival), 1,000 students and teachers from high school dance programs, college representatives and summer program recruiters gather for an extended weekend of classes and performances. The 2015 regional festival will be held this week—March 5–8—in Norfolk, Virginia. DT spoke with Deborah Thorpe, who has directed the regional festival since 1993.

Q: What’s your favorite idea from a teacher for a class at the festival?

A: “A few years ago, we had many teachers who wanted to teach repertory from the masters they’d danced with as professionals. I put together a workshop series, and then we presented an informal showcase of the works in chronological order. Each teacher spoke about the choreographer, the choreography and the impact that it had on them personally. It was very cool—and very educational.”

Q: What’s the biggest challenge of organizing the festival?

A: “Putting together the teaching schedule. We offer more than 100 classes with a lot of different teachers and accompanists and spaces. It’s a big puzzle and one that I enjoy.”

Q: How much money will the festival award in scholarships?

A: “Approximately $500,000. Scholarships range from $500 to $25,000. Awards go out to about 200 students.”

Q: What’s the farthest someone has traveled to attend?

A: “Bermuda.”

Q: What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned over the years?

A: “Being ever cognizant that the attendees have traveled long distances and have had to raise a lot of money to attend. I want to be sure everyone has a good time!”

Douglas Anderson School of the Arts students from Jacksonville, Florida, in Christopher L. Huggins' Enemy Behind the Gates.

Photos from top: by Sharen Bradford, courtesy of Booker T. Washington HSPVA; courtesy of Duval County Public Schools

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