Rolling Meadows Orchesis teaches more than 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 opened Thursday, 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."

It's not only experienced dancers who join.

"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 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.

Orchesis students perform at homecoming and the holiday assembly, they travel to local grade schools and 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 joining the Forest View High School faculty 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 also chairs the Illinois High School State Dance Festival, a showcase that pulls together the best from schools statewide. This year's festival is in May, and for the 30th year Rolling Meadows will be represented.

Dance is a tough field to make it big, Good admits. One standout is 1996 RMHS alum Brent Caburnay, who has danced with the Joffrey Ballet and Lyric Opera.

For some teens, dancing is an emotional, even spiritual, way to express themselves, Good says.

"Maybe some things in their life aren't going so great at the time, but when they come to dance they can escape it for a while," she said.

The show, "Equinox," is 7:30 p.m. tonight and Saturday, March 13 and 14, at the high school theater, 2901 Central Road, Rolling Meadows. Tickets are $6 at the door, or call (847) 718-5600.

Paula Thompson, center, and other senior Orchesis dancers prepare for 'Equinox.'
Kelsey Loughman, center, rehearsing a number for the upcoming Orchesis show.
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