Grace Knudson

Middle and upper school dance holds Teddy Bear Drive donation for Toys for Tots and posts online recital

Despite not being able to hold in-person performances, the middle school and upper school dance program hosted their Fourth Annual Teddy Bear Drive, and they posted an online video of holiday-themed dances to share with the community.

In previous years during the winter holidays, Middle and Upper School Dance Teacher Glen Dawson held a Teddy Bear Drive for the community where students, faculty, staff and parents used a teddy bear donation as their ticket to watch the winter dance recital. After the event the dancers donated the stuffed animals to Scottish Rite Hospital. Additionally, both middle school and upper school dance performed festive dances at school, including a dance with the teddy bears donated. Due to COVID-19, the Scottish Rite Hospital did not accept donations this year, and dance recitals at the school could not be open to the public. But to continue the tradition, the dance department chose to donate teddy bears to Toys for Tots, an organization run by the U.S. Marine Corps, to distribute Christmas gifts to children, and created a video compilation of middle school and upper school dances choreographed throughout November and December.

“This year has been a hardship in one way but made it easier in other ways,” Dawson said. “The girls were worried if they could share their facial expressions with the mask on, but I told them if you really dance and put in a lot of energy and feelings while dancing, you don’t notice that you are dancing with a mask. I always tell them to dance by selling it with your eyes.”

While the dance performances usually take place in the Bray Performance Hall, this year the dance department set up a performing space in the dance room to film the dances. This performing space had a make-shift light display and two Christmas trees made from ladders. 

“What’s neat about this year is we don’t have to hurry and rush on a single performance day,” Dawson said. “We can work on one dance video a single day to make sure the costumes and choreography looks good and then the next day we can work on another dance.”

In addition to the Teddy Bear Drive and dance recital, Dawson used to take her middle school and upper school students to dance at the Northpark holiday performance. However, Northpark did not offer in-person performances this year due to the pandemic, which left Dawson and dancers hopeful they could submit a video to Northpark that would be displayed on their website, but it did not go through.

“We had a lot of our dances ready since Thanksgiving because we were preparing for Northpark,” Dawson said. “But Northpark said they had all these stipulations and we had to pay extra money to submit a video which we did not want to do and that was a downer.”

Sophomore Cren Boyd has participated in the Northpark holiday performances since seventh grade as well as the Teddy Bear Drive and dance recital. 

“The Christmas dances are my favorite of all year, and I was upset we could not perform at Northpark this year because it’s a fun outing with all of the dancers,” Boyd said. “I’m glad we still have a Teddy Bear Drive because it includes everyone in the community, we are giving something back to a community in need and bringing smiles to people’s faces.”

Because upper and middle schoolers were online the week after Thanksgiving, dancers practiced on Google Meet. The fifth graders created a dance involving their Christmas tree and when they returned back to school the next week, they filmed the dance together.

“The fifth graders kept on showing me their Christmas tree while we were online so I told everybody to get by their tree and gave everybody a day of the 12 Days of Christmas and came up with a movement for each day,” Dawson said. “We took lemons and made lemonade and now we have a dance we can use in front of the Christmas tree in the dance room.”

Eighth grader Samantha Wu has been a part of the Teddy Bear Drive and dance performance the past four years. Wu has also danced out of school and has never experienced performing without an audience.

“Not being able to perform in front of people has been interesting, but a good challenge,” Wu said. “It has amazed me how many dances we have learned, but I’m glad we get to share our hard work with the community.”

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