The dance program at Odle Middle School is fostering equity and building school community, with students coming together from all of the schools programs including general education, ELL, special education, GMSP and Prism, to create meaningful, unique and creative performances.
“It is a great example of a completely inclusive program that meets the needs of diverse learners and challenges, and supports each student in achieving really spectacular, high-level results,” said principal Aaron Miller.
“When students come through these doors it doesn’t matter what program they are in,” said dance instructor and AVID teacher Deanna Burmester. “They all just mesh together and they are super complimentary and supportive of each other.”
Burmester, who was hired in 2005, taught social studies, language arts and one semester-long dance class during her first year. Since then, the dance program has proven to be so popular that Burmester now teaches five dance classes; two semester-long Intro to Dance classes, and three year-long Dance Performance classes.
“Intro to Dance is structured by different styles of dance into units like contemporary, jazz, ballet and stomp,” said Burmester. “Dance Performance is more about the dances being put together versus just these are the steps of hip hop. It’s ‘this is a hip hop dance, and putting the movement together.’”
Intro students create a dance in groups, based on what was taught in the unit. “They are putting technical elements together into a combination and then that’s their assessment, and they present it for the whole class,” said Burmester.
Likewise, Dance Performance students work in small groups throughout the semester to choreograph complex dances for their end-of-semester performance, held at International School.
“These kids are like sponges,” said Burmester. “They just want more and more choreography. I’m coming up with my most challenging choreography because these kids just keep getting better and better.”
Students are exceling at dance, including those who may struggle in other classes.
“They get to come in here and they get to move around. It just gives them a break from the day-to-day work,” said Burmester. “Yet, they are still working on complicated patterns, formations and combinations that are challenging.”
Burmester is continually seeing students return to dance, after taking intro to dance. They also continually are taking dance performance because the material is new each semester. She credits the program’s success to confidence building for the students, choice and influence in designing the class material, and choreography that is current and relevant.
Students agree with Burmester’s assessment of why the program is a success.
“It’s really fun. It expresses who you are,” said eighth grade student Maricela Vera. “There are a lot of people who started off not knowing how to dance at all, and now they know how to do so much fun stuff. It’s crazy!”
Eighth grader Zachary Zhang, who thinks dance is the best performing arts class, said he had to choose between choir and dance when he was in sixth grade. “I decided I wanted to do something more with using my body, so I decided to do dance. I fell in love with it the first semester I took it and after that I just kept doing dance for the past three years.”
Fellow eighth grade student Anisa Ally said, “For me my self-esteem and my confidence went up really high because I was super shy. But when you get to see everybody express their feelings in any way, you just want to do it to because you see how happy it makes them. And it does make you happy.”
Burmester is seeing the student growth, and also feels fortunate to be able to teach dance to students at Odle.
“I truly feel it’s just awesome what it does for the kids. Their infectious energy, and positivity, they are just super inspiring to me,” she said. “I’m really lucky that I get to do this every day.”