Without a ballroom, Algonquin students are dancing in the hallway

By Jane Keller Gordon, Contributing Writer

Hannah Eisenhofer (left) and Justin Stott

Hannah Eisenhofer (left) and Justin Stott

Northborough – Algonquin Regional High School (ARHS) senior Justin Stott likes to dance the international rumba. Junior Gabriella Thompson likes the waltz.

“It’s hard, but it’s such a beautiful dance,” she said.

Stott and Thompson are members of the ARHS Ballroom Dancing Club, a thriving group that was founded five years ago. They meet every Tuesday and Friday after school in the ARHS’s black box theater, unless it’s already booked. Then, according to Thompson, “We dance in the hallway.”

The club’s co-captains are both juniors: Katherine Harvey (Kat) and P.J. Greenwood. Senior Nicole Zucker is secretary; Junior Virginia Hurst is the events planner; and Thompson is treasurer.

According to Thompson, about 15-20 students, including three boys, usually show up for practice. Students can also attend ballroom dancing classes at Clark University on Wednesdays and Sundays, for $5 a semester. All of the students learn to lead and follow as dancers.

A smaller number, five or six, participate in competitions at area colleges. They enter either as pairs or are matched onsite with partners. Stott said that it’s an amazing opportunity.

“It’s good stressful,” he noted. “Both you and your partner are in a crunch time together.”

Thompson explained why the group is a club and not a sport.

“There is a very strict definition of a sport,” she said. “There has to be at least two other teams in New England that compete on our level. There used to be a team in Connecticut, but it fell off the grid.”

The club receives no funding from the school. Each student pays $25 a semester. They also raise funds through monthly bake sales, and occasional open mics.

Danielle Carroll, 28, is the club’s enthusiastic coach, who is paid by the hour, when she charges. She is a longtime dancer, and graduate of Clark University, which has an active ballroom dancing team.

In part, she credits the television shows, “Dancing with the Stars” and “So You Think You Can Dance” with popularizing ballroom dancing among high school students. Neither Carroll nor any of the students have parents who dance.

Assistant coach Jenna Caskie has experience competing at the championship level of American Rhythm style dance, which includes the cha-cha, rumba, swing, mambo and bolero. Currently, she is captain of the Clark University Ballroom Dance Team.

ARHS Latin teacher Philip Levine is the clubs faculty advisor.

“In order for a club to be recognized by the school and book space, they have to have a faculty advisor,” he explained. “I go to most of the practices and all the school events. I admire what [the students] do, but I myself have not been bitten by the bug.”

In many ways, the club is self-directed. Carroll works full-time for a pharmaceutical company in Boston, and is a graduate student at Lesley University.

“My decreased involvement [this year] had been a good learning opportunity for student leadership,” she said.

Harvey often runs practices and choreographs. She has been active in theater since she was 8 or 9; she started ballroom dancing last year.

A passion for ballroom dancing is evident.

“Dancing isn’t purely physical,” said Stott, who is also captain of the ARHS Mock Trial Team and a member of the Robotics Club. “It’s a bridge between a sport and thinking people. People say to me that they could never dance – they don’t have the talent – but it’s really about practice.”

Thompson added, “We have bonding sessions to help us be closer together as dance partners.”

Seniors Eisenhofer and Stott clearly want to keep on dancing after ARHS.

Eisenhofer said that she’s applying to engineering programs, but has an eye out for ballroom dancing at the schools.

“I’m definitely going to dance in college,” Stott said. “If [my school] doesn’t have a team, I want to start one. After college, I plan to go to a studio. It’s so much fun, and social.”

If you’d like to witness some members of the ARHS Ballroom Dancing Club in action, the next competition is the Worcester Classic Saturday, Feb. 20, at Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

Photos/Jane Keller Gordon

Coach Danielle Carroll, Katherine Harvey and Garrett Maglio (visiting Algonquin Regional High School alumnus)

Coach Danielle Carroll, Katherine Harvey and Garrett Maglio (visiting Algonquin Regional High School alumnus)

Short URL: http://www.communityadvocate.com/?p=70103

Posted by on Jan 4 2016. Filed under Byline Stories, Education, Northborough, People and Places. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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