The RHS Dance Department: The Hidden Gem of the High School’s Performing Arts Program

Class of 2022 dancer Grace Bua performs a lyrical solo at the 14th annual RHS Dance Showcase on Thursday, June 2, 2022 in the RHS auditorium.

Brett Shuster, Staff Reporter

Room 307, located across from the Commons near the band hallway, houses one of the high school’s best kept secrets: the RHS Dance Department. Michele Adriano single-handedly runs the department and teaches classes in the dance studio, which is a hub of enthusiasm, camaraderie, physical and emotional health and where most students who are involved would say they take their favorite classes.

Adriano’s dance classes teach students to express themselves creatively, improve their critical thinking skills, communicate ideas through movement and make an emotional connection to an art form, which is something that students can’t do in a traditional academic class. The National Endowment for the Arts and the National Dance Education Organization jointly conducted a study that affirmed, “Dance activities [in schools] provide deeper comprehension and more visible engagement in the learning process itself.”

Through the process of formulating, rehearsing, and performing a dance, students use their imagination and collaborate with their peers to solve problems and develop self-confidence. Dance “allows me to express myself amongst my peers without the pressure of failing or not having proper support,” senior dancer Sofie Tepperman said. “Over the course of the class, I gained true confidence over who I am and what I do.”

Students are placed into the class that best aligns with their skill level—introductory, intermediate or advanced—so that they have an optimal environment to thrive in as dancers and as people. Curriculum highlights for all classes include a hip hop performance at the Spirit Week pep rally; the Flipped Classroom project, where students create and teach dance phrases to their peers; the midterm project, where students choreograph dance solos, duets and trios for classmates; and the iconic Dance Showcase at the end of the school year in June.

Incorporating dance into the school day is a perfect way for students to get crucial physical activity that might not be possible otherwise.  Between AP classes, study halls and tests, many students find themselves sitting down for most of the day, and the typical after-school schedule of a high school student is not much different. Many students who do not play sports find themselves studying, working or remaining stationary through the night as well. Gym class is the conventional solution for this; however, for some, dance is a much more enjoyable experience.

An average dance class, no matter the level, can include a cardio warmup, some stretching, and either learning and perfecting choreography or working collaboratively to perform or teach dance phrases created by the students themselves.  “Everything about the dance curriculum is great,” senior dancer Penny Cerenzio said.  “Whether we’re learning, teaching or performing, I always find myself engaged and excited.” At the chime of the next period bell, dancers often find themselves slightly winded but content in what they accomplished.

“Dance is so much fun and more inclusive than gym would ever be,” junior dance student Resmel Buan said. “The class gives me more motivation to stay active in school and in general.”

Dance also allows students with academically rigorous schedules to, according to senior dancer Jenny Petitto, “have a change of pace.”  Dance can also be meditative. Through the movements, students are able to release physical tension, which in turn reduces emotional tension. Dance offers stress-relief properties unlike any other elective and has thus become an invaluable addition to the schedules of students involved. “I appreciate having a chance to get up and move,” Petitto added. “I find that I’m so much more focused in my classes after I have dance.”

Besides the physical benefits of taking dance, the supportive, community-based atmosphere of the department is what truly sets it apart from other elective options in the school. Dance is a unique activity, as it is both a sport and an art, and thus it attracts students with diverse interests, personalities and goals.

The culmination of the year is the iconic Dance Showcase in June, a magical display of teamwork, effort and friendship, guided by Adriano’s leadership. The all-encompassing performance allows each class to perform two dances they have been rehearsing all year, usually of two drastically different styles as well. The performance also includes student-choreographed solos, duets and trios from collaborative projects done during the year that truly stand out. The finale of the show features all classes in an upbeat hip-hop number that is also performed during the revered Spirit Week pep rally.

“The support that radiates from our group makes me so excited to go to class each day, and even more excited to hit the stage this coming June,” senior dancer Emily Gibb said.

Editor’s Note: This year’s showcase, which the Dance Department is currently in the thick of preparing for, will be staged on Thursday, June 8, at 7 p.m. and Friday, June 9, at 7 p.m. in the RHS auditorium. Tickets, once available, can be purchased at