The New School for Leadership and the Arts (M.S. 244, NSLA) is known for its high-energy performances. It turns out that their rehearsals are no different.
On Feb. 25, students were putting the finishing touches on their acts for NSLA’s annual Black History Month show, scheduled for the following evening. In Tamiko Maldonado’s dance class, the dancers leaped and spun and clapped their hands in perfect unison, seamlessly mixing hip-hop and jazz-style moves to the song “Free Your Mind” by the female R&B group En Vogue.
“You can’t just think of it as a dance, you have to listen to the words, ‘Free your mind, and the rest will follow.’ So she’s saying, don’t judge her,” explained eighth-grade student Kayla Dominicci. “Nowadays in society, people are disrespecting each other and you have to think about how other people feel before you judge them.”
The dance fits with the show’s theme, “A Celebration of African-American Women.”
“[En Vogue] helped change people’s minds about how they thought about African-American women,” said fellow eighth grader Andreina Ricart.
In the art classroom, visual arts teacher John Ashford had his break-dancing group the Lunchbreakers — who got the name because they give up their lunches to learn the style — run through their routine again.
“If you make a mistake, nobody knows it but you, so just keep going,” he encouraged his dancers.
“I’m the super female that’s called Shanté, and like Hurricane Annie I’ll blow you away,” rapped four students, flanked by two lines of dancers waiting for their turn in the spotlight. When the lyrics were over, one by one the students leapt to the center to show off their spins and fancy footwork.
The act ended with the students falling back into their lines for some synchronized dance moves — complete with a choreographed fall, where the lines toppled like dominos.