xml:space="preserve">
Senior Kelsey DeWitt rehearses a Chinese ribbon dance during dance company class Tuesday, March 20 at Mt. Hebron High School in Ellicott City. One of the company's captains, DeWitt said the dancers that are going to Hawaii are "excited to show everyone what we’ve been working so hard on.”
Senior Kelsey DeWitt rehearses a Chinese ribbon dance during dance company class Tuesday, March 20 at Mt. Hebron High School in Ellicott City. One of the company's captains, DeWitt said the dancers that are going to Hawaii are "excited to show everyone what we’ve been working so hard on.” (Staff photo by Brian Krista)

Spring break in Howard County schools is April 2-6, but for members of Mt. Hebron High School's junior and senior dance companies, the break will start a few days early as they dance into the Hawaiian sunset.

Thirty-three dancers from the Ellicott City school will leave March 28 for Honolulu, where they will spend eight days taking master dance classes at the University of Hawaii and one evening performing at the Ala Moana Center. It's a trip the dancers have been preparing for for months.

Advertisement

"We've been working so hard," said Megan Fox, 18, a senior and member of the senior dance company. "We've been working on Hawaii pieces the entire school year."

Every day, the junior and senior dance company classes — made up of 9th through 12th-graders according to skill — rehearse the six dances they'll be performing at the center just two days after arriving in Hawaii.

The dance companies have been traveling to Hawaii since 1999, said Dina Reyes, Mt. Hebron's dance instructor, typically once every four years. The students hold fundraisers throughout the year to help pay for the trip, Reyes said, which is far from a vacation.

"We'll see the beach," she said. "I'm not sure if we'll be spending any time on it."

While the dancers are in Hawaii, they'll be visiting historical landmarks and cultural centers as well as taking classes and performing. They'll be learning to dance the hula, Reyes said, as well as learning the art of lei-making, so it'll be an educational trip in more ways than one.

"Hawaii is such a culturally diverse place, so the students will have an opportunity to experience so much in that way," Reyes said.

The dances the students will be performing are cultural as well, Reyes said, like a samba and a Chinese ribbon dance.

The ribbon dance, with red streams of fabric swirling in time with the music, was what the students were rehearsing on Tuesday, March 20. It was a dance choreographed by senior dance company member Genevieve Ferris, 15, a sophomore who has been studying classical Chinese dance since she was four-years old, she said. As part of her role as choreographer, Ferris had to teach the other dancers the steps as well.

"It was hard," Ferris said. "I've never taught anyone dance before, but they learned pretty fast."

The dances also will be performed at the school's Spring Concert, in May, Reyes said, and while the dancers perform at those concerts and events like the Howard County Dance Festival and the Walt Disney World Resort's Magic Music Days, Hawaii is a venue none of the students have experienced before.

"Aside from the cultural aspect — I mean, I've never traveled that far, or to a place that has so much diversity before — it's a unique opportunity," said Brenna Hearn, 16, and a junior. "Being able to put that on my college resume, it'll make us stand out from every one else."

The more experiences, the better, Reyes said, especially since so many of her students will go on to perform with other groups, or study dance as a major or minor in college. Most, she said, find some way to keep dancing and performing.

"Any time I'm able to give them a performance opportunity, I try to," Reyes said. "This is something they can really benefit from."

For some of the students, the trip isn't about performance experience or resume-building: it's about dancing.

Advertisement

"When I'm dancing, I feel pretty happy," said Kelsey DeWitt, 17, a senior and one of the company's captains. "I love to perform for people, and I'm excited — we're all excited — to show everyone what we've been working so hard on."

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement