Welcome to the PVPA Dance Department

Thank you for visiting the PVPA Dance Department Website! - Felice Santorelli, Leader, Dance Dept.

In the PVPA Dance Department, we celebrate the many different forms and functions that dance serves around the world. We recognize that dance can communicate and express a wide range of human feelings and experiences. Not only do we train our PVPA dance students to understand that the rigorous study of dance can lead to a professional career, but also that exposure to and exploration of different dance genres and creative processes are key aspects of a healthy, well rounded, culturally and aesthetically aware person.

At PVPA, the dance courses we offer our students are multi-faceted. Our classes blend skill building in technique with creative experiences linked to improvisation and choreography, provide a foundation in theory and history, and draw connections between dance and other disciplines and art forms. We offer a sequence of classes that train students from a beginner through more advanced level in several dance genres, and provide multiple performance outlets through informal showings at PVPA and out in the community. The dance department also presents multiple concerts each year from our three dance companies, Catalyst (concert dance), Funkadelic (hip hop) WOFA (West African Dance and Drumming) at PVPA's professional theater. Our Dance Education Laboratory (DEL) program offers dance students mentoring and teaching opportunities in neighboring elementary schools to promote community service and partnership.

Students in the PVPA Dance Department are encouraged to become members of the National Honors Society for Dance Arts (NHSDA), which recognizes artistic and academic excellence. Students in the NHSDA may apply for scholarships and have the opportunity to publish written work in the NHSDA quarterly newletter, Dance Arts Now!

The Catalyst Dance Company celebrated its 19th year last year as a student choreography company. Under the artistic direction of Felice Santorelli, Catalyst has grown from a fledgling modern dance company into a national touring group that performs works of all genres from nationally-acclaimed artists. The company has the unique composition of dancers from grades 9-12 who specialize in a variety of styles and come from private dance schools throughout the valley. The company has trained dancers who have gone on to dance with professional companies and teach in arts education with various institutions. Annually, Catalyst members attend the Regional and National High School Dance Festival where the dancers participate in workshops and perform original works for the Festival audience.

WOFA DRUM & DANCE COMPANY was founded in 2009 by Kabisko Kaba (Bisko) and continues to be a source of inspiration for PVPA students to learn about the rich culture and heritage of Guinea, West Africa. WOFA is a Sousou word which means, LETS GET TOGETHER which expresses our vision to reach out into the community to share our culture and art. Part of WOFA’s mission is to share their cultural knowledge with the larger community through performances and workshops at schools and other cultural organizations. WOFA has performed at many locations including the Gorse School, Monson High School, Westfield University and 10 Thousand Villages. This year WOFA is intending to travel to Guinea during Paideia for a cultural dance and drum intensive.

Bisko came to the U.S. in 1998 with his world renowned dance company Les Merveille de Guinea debuting in New York and touring throughout the U.S.A for over five years, during this time Bisko taught in numerous schools and community centers thrilling audiences with his boundless energy and skillful dancing, acting, drumming and singing. As a teacher Bisko is known for his passion for the arts and demonstrated commitment to excellency in his choreography and storytelling. 

Funkadelic Hip Hop Dance Company is PVPA’s hip hop dance company. Under the direction of Shakia Johnson, Funkadelic was created in the winter of 2015 with dancers from all grades. In this dance company, students learn to appreciate the roots of Hip Hop dance and study the evolution of the genre, drawing connections between dance and culture. The company focuses on improvisational skills and student generated choreography. 

The Dance Education Laboratory (DEL) at PVPA

Last year, under the direction of PVPA Dance Department Leader, Ann Biddle, the dance department entered into an exciting partnership with the Dance Education Laboratory (DEL) which emphasizes a creative approach to teaching dance and choreography to students by making connections to literature, social studies and science. Founded by Jody Arnhold with Ms. Biddle as Founding Faculty, DEL is based in NYC at the Harkness Dance Center at the 92nd ST Y . Thanks to a generous grant from Jody Arnhold, the PVPA Dance Education Laboratory was created to train middle and high school dancers to become dance mentors for elementary aged students in local public schools. PVPA DEL was designed to help middle and high students broaden their understanding of dance and dance education while acting as a mentors and role models for younger students. This unique combination of community service, mentoring, collaborative teaching and learning has proven to be highly successful with both the PVPA students and their younger mentees. PVPA DEL students also have opportunities to travel to NYC to attend dance performances and participate in choreography workshops led by established New York City choreographers. Our PVPA DEL dancers also have an opportunity to perform in the Dance for Kids show at the Academy of Music in the Spring.