Performing arts classes shrink as grad requirements grow


Dance and art teacher Eileen Bertron shows off a move to her sixth-period dance class, which accommodates Advanced, Intermediate and Beginner levels. Photo credit: Genevieve Nemeth/Bear Witness

Nolan Zils, Staff Writer

Dance teacher Eileen Bertron’s program has shrunk from two classes last year into one,meaning she is teaching both her advanced and beginning students in the same room.

  To address this, she has her veteran students lead activities for the beginning students, while she can focus working choreography with her Intermediate and Advanced students, who are preparing for an ambitious Halloween show Oct. 22 and 23.

  Having more students has slowed down their progress, as the two classes only have 4 out of 7 dances complete for the show.

  “The people who get [the choreography] right away end up sitting down and doing nothing because I’m having to work with beginners.” Bertron said.

  Performing arts classes such as dance and choir have been combined or reduced due to a slew of factors, lack of student interest, new graduation requirements for career and technical education. New rules state that three years of science are now needed to graduate. Because of this, only a handful of juniors are in the dance class.

  The disparities in skill levels in these classes have posed challenges in training inexperienced students while further developing the techniques of the more advanced students.

Senior Stacey Yavorski, who is teaching one of the dances for the show, feels like it’s difficult to be productive now that there are more students.

   “It’s really hard to focus in an environment where there are beginning dance students as well as advanced dance

students,” she said. “We have different needs as students. So that’s something that definitely affects everyone.”

   Some performing arts classes doubled over the span of a few years. Senior Scott Tucker said that in his four years in the elite Madrigals choir, the class size has gone from about 30 to almost 60 students.

  “It just makes it harder to get work done,” Tucker said. “It’s easier for people to get off task.”

   The choir is also preparing for the same Halloween show. All of the advanced choirs — Madrigal Chamber choir, Treble Ensemble and Bass Ensemble— except the beginning concert choir are now in one period because there’s one less choir class this year.

   Another issue is that teachers are not having as much one on one time with their students.

   “When you have 60 kids in a class — I love my students, [but] I don’t get to know them as well,” choir teacher Barbara West said.

  West is deciding to look on the bright side with having a combined class, where a rising tide lifts all boats as higher-tier singers inspire others to improve.

   “I actually think it’s working out really well,” she said. “The kids are singing really hard music.”