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. 

The PVPA Dance Department has been recognized on the National level by many arts and education organizations, including the National Dance Education Organization (NDEO), the National Honors Society for Dance Arts (NHSDA), the 92nd Street Y and Harkness Center for Dance Arts, the National High School Dance Festival, and Jacob's Pillow.

Highlights from the PVPA Dance Department...

  • PVPA, like schools across the world, closed down due to the COVID-19 pandemic just 4 weeks before the annual Catalyst Dance Company performance. The dancers continued working from home, re-imagining each piece in the three-act show. Watch this performance project, All Behind Us
  • Fall/Winter 2020: "PS Dance! The Next GENeration" -- In the summer of 2019, Film producer Nel Shelby will release this film about the Dance Education Laboratory (DEL) program at PVPA. The film features our middle and high school dance students as leaders and dance mentors at Leeds Elementary School. 
  • February 2020: Catalyst Dancers attend the National High School Dance Festival in Pittsburgh where Yoshi Sanders ('20) presents his work "Maybe, we'll see" 
  • May 2019: Dancers Tali Sureck ('19), Chloe Balch ('20), Yoshi Sanders ('20) are selected for "Dance UP!", a program that selects up-and-coming choreographers from around the country to perform their work at the historic 92nd Street Y in Manhattan. Performance on May 4, 2019, New York City 
  • April 2019: Dancer Yoshi Sanders ('20) is the NATIONAL WINNER of the 2019 NDEO Artistic Merit, Leadership and Academic Achievement Award 
  • March 2019: Dancer Anaia Cayode ('19) wins 2nd place in the Outstanding Student Choreography Showcase at the Regional High School Dance Festival 
  • February 2019: CLI Studios, an LA-based organization for dance and dance education, selects PVPA as a school partner. CLI programming offers an enormous online library of live and pre-recorded classes with world-renowned choreographers
  • May 2018: PVPA's Wofa African Dance and Drum Company is invited to perform at an event honoring Black Panther costume designer Ruth E. Carter 

Catalyst Dance Company

The Catalyst Dance Company celebrates 20 years as PVPA's student choreography, contemporary dance 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 West African Dance & Drum 
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 Group

Funkadelic is PVPA’s hip hop dance company. Originally founded by 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 at PVPA

The Dance Education Laboratory (DEL) at PVPA

The PVPA Dance Department has 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 Ann Biddle as Founding Faculty, DEL is based in NYC at the Harkness Dance Center at the 92nd Street Y . Thanks to a generous grant from Jody Arnhold, the PVPA Dance Education Laboratory at PVPA 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 and to Jacob's Pillow to attend dance performances and participate in choreography workshops led by established choreographers.

In the Winter of 2019, PVPA dancers were featured in a documentary film about the DEL program at PVPA over Paideia. That film will be released on PBS in the Summer of 2019! Keep an eye out for "PS Dance! The Next GENeration"