As the seniors near graduation, the Heritage dance department has geared up to present the final showcase of the year. The four seniors in dance company reflect on their experiences throughout their high school dance careers.
At age 3, Clayton began dancing at Artistic Dance Company. She has danced with Heritage since her freshman year. Currently, she holds the position of President of Dance Ensemble and is a member of the dance company and Patriot Dancers. Her favorite aspect of dancing at school is her ability to express her independence through choreographing her own dances and helping to organize dance ensemble. In addition to meeting some of her closest friends through Dance Ensemble, Clayton has grown close to Ms. Renee Brown over the years as the president of the group.
“Ms. Brown has taught me so many life lessons and showed me how it’s always better to be positive throughout your life,” Clayton said.
Clayton and the rest of the dance ensemble perform at this year’s spring concert. (Photo/Maia Fernandez Baigun)
Clayton looks forward to dancing one last time with her fellow company seniors, and she is most excited for the pre-concert circle with all of the dancers before the show. Although Clayton does not believe that her senior solo expresses a certain message, she choreographed it on her own and crafted her slideshow as a way to reflect on the past four years and demonstrate her improvement.
Throughout her dance career, Clayton recognizes her dance teacher Ms. Lissette as the person who has inspired her the most.
Roberts has danced for 16 years and began with the high school dance department in seventh grade. She presides as Vice President of Dance Ensemble and holds membership in Dance Company and Patriot Dancers. Ms. Brown took Roberts under her wing in junior high when, technically, she was too young for high school dance.
“I feel like being put in classes with people that were two or more years older than me helped me mature as a dancer. Ms. Brown never doubted my ability to keep up even though I was young, so I owe most of my maturity in dance to her,” Roberts said. “She always has such positive energy, and she never stopped believing in me.”
“My mom has inspired me the most because she has sacrificed so much for me just so I could continue to receive dance training,” Roberts said. “She has been my number one supporter during my dance journey.”
Roberts leaps in the air as she performs her senior solo at this year’s spring concert. Her senior solo marks the last time she performs by herself on the Heritage stage. She performed to the song “Don’t Watch Me Cry” by Jorja Smith. The sad nature of the song will allow Roberts to express raw emotion on stage. (Photo/Maia Fernandez Baigun)
Daniela Hilel began dancing at 9 years old and has taken part in Heritage dance since her freshman year. She is the Public Relations Director of Dance Ensemble and a member of both Dance Company and Patriot Dancers. For her, dancing at school means the ability to take a mental break from her academic classes and enjoy herself.
Ms. Brown taught Hilel not only the importance of working with a team, but also the importance of speaking up and using her words.
“She taught me to dance to my fullest extent and to not say sorry for who I am as a dancer or a person,” Hilel said. She plans on soaking up every single moment during the spring concert.
“I am looking forward to sharing my love for dance on stage with the audience and to dance with all these other beautiful dancers for one last time,” she said. Hilel performed her senior solo to the song “Two Steps Away” by Patti LaBelle. She chose to do this song as a freshman and honored her 4-year-old decision.
Hilel performs her senior solo at the spring dance concert. “I am not hoping to send one distinct message. It is subjective. I want the audience to decide what this dance means to themselves with no outside influence,” Hilel said. (Photo/Maia Fernandez Baigun)
Danielle Moore has inspired Hilel the most throughout her dance career. She recognizes Moore as the first dance teacher to push her past her limits.
“She saw something in me and helped me grow as a dancer and a human being. I can never say thank you enough for that,” Hilel said.
At age 3, Elena Espinoza began dancing and has continued her passion at Heritage since sixth grade. Espinoza’s favorite part about dancing at school boils down to the opportunities provided for the dancers. She has performed in a dance concert every semester, done multiple pep rallies and taken part in a Black History Month production. She also recognizes that the dancers share their passion through the plays and musicals put on by Heritage.
“Ms. Brown has had a major influence on me as a dancer and as a person. With her guidance, she has pushed me to want to become a better person and dancer,” Espinoza said. “Her positivity radiates throughout an entire room. I will carry her advice and life lessons with me for the rest of my life.”
As Espinoza takes her last steps on the school stage this spring concert, she looks forward to expressing her gratitude for dance and the people who have had a major impact on her life. Her senior solo will mark the first time she takes the Heritage stage alone. She describes her senior solo as a “feel good dance” that signals a goodbye to her high school dance career.
Throughout her dance career, her Studio 61 family has influenced her the most.
“I feel inspired when I see the admiring looks on the little ones’ faces. I feel inspired when I see a dancer closer to my age dance with emotion and feeling. I feel inspired when my teachers yell ‘YESSS!’ after we’ve worked so hard on a routine and we finally get it,” Espinoza said. “I’m going to miss this family so much.”