Through the Ballet Theatre of Maryland’s art integration project, five Anne Arundel County public elementary schools are working with the ballet company to present condensed performances of “Snow White.”
Of the five schools, two are Pasadena and Riviera Beach elementary schools. Each school has 20 students participating in the program.
“It’s nice because it’s a different level of professionalism and discipline,” said Dan Patrylak, an EEE (Enhancing Elementary Excellence) teacher at Pasadena Elementary, who is part of the school’s dance company this year. “Sometimes, when you just have it in-house, it’s a little more comfortable for the students, a little bit more laid back. When you start bringing professionals in, they start to see themselves in a different light, as well. It ups the stakes a little bit and adds that next level.”
BTM has been doing the arts integration program since 2013. Each participating school writes a seven-minute version of the ballet, and then a BTM choreographer helps the students create the dance. Suzanne Luoma is helping both Pasadena and Riviera Beach choreograph their renditions this year.
“They’ve shown so much that dance does for you: discipline, the music and math,” Luoma said. “The physical activity, especially, is great before school. They’re not tired, and it gets their blood moving so they get more blood [and] oxygen to their brain at the start of the day.”
Students meet before school once a week for an hour-long rehearsal. Now eight rehearsals in, Patrylak said he notices a difference in the students.
“Sometimes with the ballet, it’s about slowing down, calming down, thinking before you start your actions, being in control of what you’re doing,” Patrylak said. “I think that does translate to the classroom.”
At Riviera Beach Elementary, fourth-grade students were paired with first-grade students for the program. During the writing process, the students worked with teachers Kelli Johnson and Kaitlin Vezina, and they called themselves the Seven Word Wonders.
Each school is tasked with putting a twist on the classic story. At Riviera Beach, Snow White is a dancer who journeys into the woods and finds the Seven Wonders Dance Studio, which is where the dwarves live. They teach Snow White to be a better dancer, where the Evil Queen used to be the favored dancer.
In Riviera Beach’s production, the Evil Queen asks the mirror, “Mirror, mirror in my studio, who’s the best dancer that you know?” Johnson said. “The mirror replies: Princess Snow can dab, and she’s got that glow, she’s the best dancer that I know.”
At Pasadena, the seven dwarves are now seven puppies; the poisoned apple is a bad lottery ticket; and the Evil Queen travels by jetpack, just to name a few twists.
Before each school performs, students are invited to read a two-minute version of the story to help the audience follow along with the ballet.
Between the school performances, professional dancers from BTM will perform excerpts of their production of “Snow White,” which they performed in February as part of their 40th anniversary celebration.
All five schools and BTM members will perform their renditions of “Snow White” on April 16 at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts. Performances begin at 6:30pm, and the event is free and open to the public.