STEVENSVILLE — Amber Wright is the kind of teacher that really cares about her students. It makes sense that she won Outstanding Teacher of the Year for Queen Anne’s County Public Schools last year. Currently she is involved with the dance program and two of her students have gone on to the Maryland State Championship.
Michael Bell, supervisor for visual and performing arts at QACPS, said, “I pride us in being standouts across the state in both Visual and Performing Arts, and it’s because of talented teachers and inspiring, dedicated students like these that we are able to shine!”
“I started dancing when I was three. It was really exciting to be selected. I have been involved with dance at Kent Island for my whole high school career. It’s an experience I am glad I had. The pieces mean so much to me,” said senior Ella Patterson.
“I choreographed it and picked the music by myself. I used a slower more contemporary song called Heaven Up There by Palace. The song is about accepting that someone is happier somewhere else. Even if it is not with you or everyone else, because we are selfish people. Sometimes we have to accept that they are not happy with us. And the piece is just kind of going through the emotions and grief of that they are happy somewhere else,” she said.
She danced to the music for just over three minutes. The style of the piece is contemporary lyrical. In this piece there is a lot of stillness. There are isolations and sharp movements, she said.
“I am doing the piece in honor of my friend Imani. She was on my competition dance team. In February she passed away. She was like the biggest light in our lives. Even if she wasn’t talking, you could look across the room and know she was there for you. My piece is for her because she is really positive,” she said.
Going to dance competitions can help with your career. It is a great way to network with other dancers and teachers and there are scholarships to be won for college. She does not want to major in dance in college, but she will definitely keep dancing in college.
Logan Donnelly choreographed his own pieces as well.
“I used an upbeat piano, instrumental track. My favorite style to dance for is musical theater, jazz or contemporary. I love Disney’s Newsies,” said Donnelly.
He is going to attend Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University. Chicago will be a vibrant and diverse place to pursue his goals. He will be majoring in musical theater with a concentration in dance.
For the competition he created two pieces.
“During the beginning of lockdown, I had nothing to do. So I picked a song and danced around my kitchen. That was really fun. I just enjoyed myself. With dance it is so easy to get caught up in the technique and logistics, but at the end of the day moving your body and enjoying the music is all it needs to be,” he said.
His second piece was assigned to him by Wright, who also serves as the Performing Arts Chair at Kent Island High School. The theme was the first day of Spring.
“It was so nice out and I love being outside. My immediate thought was to do it outside. I felt connected with nature and I could hear the birds chirping in the background,” he said.
Wright said that when she gave him the assignment he wanted to do it alone. He said to her, “I am just feeling a certain way and I have got to get it out.” She thought that statement was so pure and raw and she loved it.
Wright said, “I get up in the morning because these students encourage me every day. I provide a safe place for them to create and to take risks without being judged. My supervisor Michael Bell is always there for everything we do. He is supporting us and letting the public know.”
It sounds like things are really clicking at KIHS’ arts program. Combining caring teachers, with supportive administrations and talented students is a winning formula.
QACPS is one of nine school systems statewide participating in the launch of MARYLAND DANCES! – A Celebration of Maryland Public School Dance Programs hosted by the Fine Arts Office of the Maryland State Department of Education and the Maryland Dance Education Association.
MARYLAND DANCES! the concert-length virtual student exhibition in dance will be shown at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, June 2 at 7 p.m. Donnelly and Patterson will be showcased in two performances.
Dance is one of the five core fine arts subjects in Maryland schools, along with Visual Arts, Music, Theatre and Media Arts. The arts community will gather to see and hear from students and educators across Maryland to spotlight dance in a program consisting of exemplary student performances. The nine participating school systems include:
Anne Arundel County Public Schools
Baltimore City Public Schools
Baltimore County Public Schools
Frederick County Public Schools
Harford County Public Schools
Montgomery County Public Schools
Prince George’s County Public Schools
Queen Anne’s County Public Schools
Washington County Public Schools
To reserve a FREE virtual ticket, please visit https://www.eventbrite.com/e/155702192449.
Links to student performances and an introduction from Michael Bell can be found online at www.myeasternshoremd.com.