Orchesis teaches much besides dance
Members of the Rolling Meadows High School Orchesis troupe will offer up plenty of dancing talent at this week's annual show.
But their instructor is quick to point out the show is not just about the dancing.
Reggie Good, who has led the program more than 20 years, says learning about every aspect of the production is important. The teens choreograph their numbers, design posters, organize rehearsals and sew their costumes - all skills that can be applied to other aspects of life.
"That's what they can carry with them past high school," Good says about the months of preparation the students put into the show. "We're not just all about doing the steps."
The show, which opens tonight, will be a feast for the eyes with elements of modern, jazz, tap, hip-hop, ethnic and ballet. "What I try to teach is a love of dance, for them to be a lifelong fan of dance," Good says. "To do that, they have to be well-versed in all styles of dance."
While many suburban schools have similar programs, Orchesis at Rolling Meadows in particular has a history of strong community support. Good says that youngsters take community dance classes often with the goal of making Orchesis at the high school.
It's not only experienced dancers who join, however. "When people see the shows they get the impression the performers have been taking dance since age 3," Good explains. "But many have their first dance class here."
The 52 teens - including a dozen boys - work intensely after school and on weekends during Orchesis "season," the weeks that lead up to the annual March show. The shows are popular with students and larger community and have been known to sell out.
"We set the bar very high, but they love that feeling after a show knowing that they were involved in something excellent," Good says.
Over the years Good has built dozens of traditions for the students. They perform at the homecoming game and the holiday assembly, and in December they travel to local grade schools to perform. The students also participate in a three-day intensive summer program. "We're creating a sense of belonging," she says. "Nothing will do that like a tradition."
Good majored in dance and dance education and taught at Illinois State University before coming to Forest View High School in the mid 1980s. When Forest View closed a year later she stepped into the Rolling Meadows program when its director left to raise her family. "Orchesis already was respected by the school. It was the perfect situation for me," she recalls.
Good's service goes beyond the school community. She is chair of the Illinois High School State Dance Festival, a showcase that pulls together the best from schools statewide. This year's festival is set for May, and for the 30th year Rolling Meadows will be represented.
Over the years a few students have made it big, but it's a tough field, Good admits. One in particular stands out: 1996 alum Brent Caburnay, who has danced for the Joffrey Ballet and Lyric Opera. Other students have received scholarships and gone on to major or minor in dance.
For some of the teens, dancing is an emotional, even spiritual, way to express themselves, Good says. "Maybe some things in their life aren't going so great the time, but when they come to dance they can escape it for a while," she says.
The show, called "Equinox," starts at 7:30 p.m. tonight through Saturday, March 14, at the high school theater, 2901 Central Road in Rolling Meadows. Purchase tickets for $6 at the door, or call (847) 718-5600 for more details.