By Cali Carss
The sixth floor of Beacon is home to a host of different classes. Language classrooms line one hallway, and the theatre program takes up the middle of the floor. All along the sixth floor, groups of kids line the walls, leaning against lockers as they open notebooks or lunch boxes. From this description, it seems like every other floor of the school; and to most students it is.
However, tucked into the opposite hallway is one of the most special rooms Beacon has to offer. Formerly known as room 618, the Kim Elliott Dance Theatre, named for the beloved late dance teacher, is a safe place and an escape from the otherwise routine class schedule. Students stop by throughout the day to practice choreography, take a quick nap in the corner, or just chat with friends and dance teacher Ms. Villegas. The dance studio is a place filled with music, laughter, and creativity. Even a simple glance into the windows will show a class hard at work, whether they are running through sections of a dance being set for a performance or taking a class from a student director. To me, it’s a welcome change of scenery every day when I get to walk through those doors and shift my focus from any outside stress to solely the choreography at hand.
This feeling of freedom is shared by many students in the program. Abi, a junior in intermediate B, sees dance at Beacon as not only self expression but “something liberating, especially as a person of color because there aren’t many art programs in schools that allow us to express ourselves and move how we choose to move.” She feels that the work both former director Ms. Elliott and Ms. Villegas have put into making the program a family “puts a whole different heart” into the environment, one that beats every day to give all its students a chance.
The room itself is different from any other layout in the building. Spanning nearly the entire side of a hallway, the Dance Theatre has hardwood floors and giant windows on either side of the room. It’s a classic dance studio, right in Beacon’s very own building. And thanks to Ms. Villegas’ ambitions, this room converts into a true theatre twice a year. Complete with black curtains and wings, lights, and as many seats as possible, her dance program can showcase their hard work fully on a stage of her own creation. The studio also holds a very special place in many student’s hearts. As Abi put it, “this is my safe space, there’s no other word for it.” The dance studio is always teeming with life, a testament to the community Ms. Elliott worked so hard to create and that Ms. Villegas has continued to build upon.
Ultimately, the dance program deserves to be recognized as an essential part of the Beacon community. Dance is more than just a class we take, it’s also a community where we lift each other up and grow as individuals. It can help people gain confidence and raise their overall self esteem. Having people wholeheartedly believe in you does wonders, and that’s what the dance program is really about. The larger Beacon community needs to know that “the dance program is for everybody,” as Abi told me. This is also why I chose to focus on the dance studio when introducing the sixth floor; to let students know that dance shouldn’t be intimidating. Dance brings joy and pushes us all to work harder every class. The product of that passion is evident in every performance, and those performances only get better with time. Really, now more than ever, the dance program is here.