Bonneville Jr. High Dance Society performs at Cottonwood Community Night May 12Apr 30, 2022 10:56AM ● By Heather Lawrence
“They’ve learned to trust each other while there are trying new things,” said advisor Carrie Peterson of the new Bonneville Jr. High Dance Society. (Carrie Peterson)
By Heather Lawrence | [email protected]
Students at Bonneville Jr. High waited a long time for a dance team.
“The former dance teacher retired years ago, but was never replaced. Time went on, and then the pandemic happened, and we just didn’t have a team,” said Carrie Peterson, whose daughter Jessie is a seventh grader at Bonneville.
Peterson, who has a BFA in Modern Dance from the University of Utah, was sad the students didn’t have that opportunity at school.
“All the other junior highs in the district dance. For those who can’t do private studio lessons, if they want to dance in high school, they are really behind their peers,” Peterson said.
Bonneville got a new administrator, Jen Johnson, for the 2021-22 school year. Peterson saw that as the perfect opportunity to go to bat for her daughter and ask again about a dance program.
“I wanted to have a dance team so much. When my mom came back from meeting with Ms. Johnson, she said, ‘It looks like we’re going to do dance at Bonneville this year!’” Jessie said.
Jessie’s friend Charlotte Smith said the two of them wrote letters asking for a dance team. “We also worked on choreographing our own dance—we just needed to do something!”
When Johnson gave a cautious yes (working around lingering Covid precautions) Jessie remembers being “so happy she could cry.” Charlotte’s mom Josette Smith and Peterson were hired as co-instructors, and the dance society started meeting on Friday afternoons.
The society is open to everyone and has 19 members. They work on understanding space, time and energy. They’ve learned to trust each other while they express themselves. For some, it was a natural fit. For others it’s been a growing experience.
“Choreography is the best thing about dance. I’m a theatre kid, so this is just another way to express myself. I love being creative, making things up and following the energy of the music,” said CeCe Christy.
For Timmy Hsiao, dance started as a time-filler. “I was looking for something to do on Friday afternoons. I’m busy the other days of the week with sports. Someone said I should come do dance, even though I had never done it before. It’s been a lot of fun. I like the art of choreography and making things up.”
Peterson and the others love having Timmy in the group. He has a great attitude and is willing to try new things. He’s the only male student on the team, but they think he’ll lead the way for others to join.
“I’ve been so impressed with these kids. They come ready to dance and ready to work. They are learning new things, and being kind to each other as they express themselves,” Peterson said.
Peterson said this isn’t only a place for students who have danced their whole lives.
“One of the most important things was to get people here who haven’t taken dance before, and that’s about 85% of our group,” Peterson said.
The society found an ideal supporter in Johnson. “I worked at Taylorsville High and Kearns High before I came here, and I coached the drill team. I also studied with Ballet West,” Johnson said.
With the pandemic impacting students in so many ways, Johnson supports anything that gives her students a way to connect back with the school. The society is doing exactly that.
Members of the group said they’ve strengthened friendships and gotten outside of their comfort zones at Friday rehearsals.
“I like coming together as a group. I feel like we’re united when we’re dancing,” said student Lizette Blandon.
“Dancing is a big part of my life. When I’m in dance, I feel like I’m where I belong,” Mia Call said.
“This is a safe place, and it’s easy to make friends here. I’ve made new friends and become closer to the ones I already had,” said Jessie.
Some are rediscovering the fun they had dancing as small kids. “I took dance when I was three or four years old, but then stopped. Since the dance society started at school, I’m dancing again. I get to show my emotions and have fun,” said team member Hasti Yazdani.
After a year of hard work, the Bonneville Jr. High Dance Society has their first performances in May. May 12 they’re performing at the Cottonwood Community Family Night at Cottonwood High School. May 18 they’re performing at Bonneville for their performing arts night.
Some are anxious and some are excited, but they all hope it’s the beginning of something that will continue at Bonneville for a long time.
“Dancing in front of people isn’t something I’ve ever done before. I play the piano and the cello, so music really speaks to me.
“But it’s felt good to come to dance every week and see people and not worry that I’m being judged for expressing myself,” said team member Ava Kunz. “I don’t like to perform, but I think that as a group, we will shine.”