Dance Program to End After Three Years

In January 2020, Northwood School announced a new dance program for the 2020-2021 academic year. The program was planned and executed in partnership with The Dance Sanctuary, a dance studio in Saranac Lake. The program was unique in that it incorporated both performance-based and academic components and allowed beginners and elite dancers with high aspirations to follow their passions. Much like the Hockey, Skiing and Soccer programs, the Dance program showcased Northwood School’s initiative as it attempted to provide a unique offering within the Adirondack region and allowed students to combine a passion with academics. Sadly, Northwood will discontinue the Dance program, as numbers were inadequate to justify its continuation.

Iva-Amanda Nelson is a senior in the dance program. “It is really heartbreaking. Although I won’t be there to experience not having a dance program, I have been involved since the start as a sophomore. It is still such a young program, and I feel like so much can still be done with it. It is sad to see what’s happening. I think there will still be classes offered at The Dance Sanctuary and hopefully Northwood can provide transportation for dance students, but I guess they will have to find another co-curricular. It will be really hard for the girls because all of them are so passionate about dance.”

As expected, there has been a lot of discussion amongst the dancers. Many are upset and feel that the school should have waited 5 years to allow more time for the partnership to succeed. Seeing the dancers perform at the LPCA is something Northwood students looked forward to, as well as the participating dancers themselves. Dance has changed many young women at Northwood for the better. The dance program has provided the girls with an opportunity to express themselves confidently and has allowed them to find meaning and passion.

“Dance has made a large impact on my life. It has empowered me, and I’ve been surrounded by such strong, caring and supportive people in my life who I have met through dance. I have built life-long relationships with people I never would’ve thought I would be friends with. I just feel that without dance at Northwood, my experience wouldn’t have been as good as it was,” Nelson laments.

Why did the dance program close? According to the Head of School Michael Maher, “The dance program continues to be important and is just going to be reclassified in a co-curricular format. The reason for that is that in a small school with limited resources, we have to direct those resources to some of our marquee athletic programs that need nourishment. At the same time, because we think so much of the instructors, the company, and most importantly, the experience the kids have had, we want to retain it as an offering.”

Mr. Maher felt bittersweet about the decision. “I wouldn’t use the word closing because we are still offering it to students. We are just offering it on a different basis. I recognized that this ultimately means fewer kids participate in it. On that level, the decision comes with a hint of sadness.”

When asked what other new programs are being discussed, Mr. Maher said, “We are committed to expanding the NOC [Northwood Outing Club] program and feel we have a unique natural environment to support that program. Secondly, we are committed to improving the school’s gender balance and we feel our best opportunity to do that is in a number of areas, but our primary priority would be to increase our alpine girls’ skiing program. We have the staff in place and a world-class mountain to support that. It is a good decision financially and a good decision culturally.”

Will the end of the dance program affect the gender gap? “I think it will be minimal,” said Maher. “My understanding from talking to Mr. Riffle, the Director of Admissions, is that a good number, if not a very high percentage, call it 90% of the girls who participate in the dance program developed that interest after they arrived at Northwood. We continue to be enthusiastic about both the people running the program and the program itself, and we want to maximize it as a co-curricular experience,” Maher replied.

Members of the Hockey, Ski and Soccer teams had benefitted from dance classes, as dance develops flexibility, agility, and core strength in athletes.

After receiving the news about discontinuing the dance program, Northwood students were left wondering how the school will improve the male-female ratio after removing a full girls’ dance team. Lohkoah Paye ‘24 says, “It is quite sad that they’re getting rid of the program, and I think it will affect the girl-to-boy ratio negatively. I have heard rumors of a potential girls’ soccer team incoming, which I think would be great for Northwood.” The boy-to-girl ratio is 13 to 7 in favor of boys; this has been a recurring issue since the school went co-ed more than 50 years ago. As a result, students have constantly been gossiping about how the school could potentially even out the uneven ratio.

A girls soccer team seems to be the most popular idea in the Northwood community. The boys’ soccer program at Northwood has been an utmost success and is continuing to grow and improve. Adding a girl’s program would only enhance this reputation and benefit the school.

According to Gino Riffle, Head of Admissions, girls’ soccer is a possibility. “We are considering it and think it’s a great option as we’re always trying to grow the female population. However, it’s a long process to do a full assessment, and as we haven’t started a formal process yet, it’s not an immediate option.”

Unfortunately, some good things must end, and whilst the official dance program will soon be no more, the Mirror hopes to see the talents of Northwood students as they continue to perform on stage at future school events.



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