The Waterford High School dance club had only seven students in the 1994–95 school year, when Paula MacDougall, a graduate of Waterford High in 1970, took over as head of the club. Last month, 63 students took part in the club’s annual show.
What made this year’s production special was that it capped off MacDougall’s 20th year as manager of the club, which began over 50 years ago.
The dance club is a labor of love for MacDougall, who retired as a high school physical education and health teacher four years ago.
“Most of my dancers don’t take dance lessons. Most have never danced before and I love giving them the opportunity to dance and perform on stage,” she wrote in an email. -mail. “It’s very satisfying to see these students and how excited they are at show time.”
The club differs from a dance team in that it is non-competitive and the dancers do not perform at sports matches.
Yet rehearsals require a constant time commitment. The dancers practice two hours a day, three days a week, from September to November during the fall sports season. In December, two-hour rehearsals are held each weekday, followed by a three-hour rehearsal on weekends.
MacDougall said the schedule can be overwhelming at times. Club alumni and more experienced student dancers help with rehearsals when possible.
A 2006 Waterford High graduate, Andreanna McKinzie, from Glastonbury, has volunteered to help with rehearsals for the past four years. She said she was returning to the club because of MacDougall’s impact on her.
“She’s always been a role model since I was in high school,” she said.
MacDougall celebrated his 20th anniversary performances on March 14 and 15 by inviting alumni to attend and salute the performers at the end of each show. She decorated the school hall with posters of previous years’ performances and photos of this year’s dancers.
This year’s performances included a mix of modern dance and contemporary pieces, choreographed by students and MacDougall. The dances ranged in tone from the upbeat modern piece “Blast” to a darker tribute piece called “Heaven”.
Waterford High senior Ashli Rossi, 17, choreographed “Heaven”, to a Beyonce song of the same name. She dedicated the piece to Joshua Eudy, a Waterford High teacher and sports coach who died last year. Eudy coached Rossi’s volleyball team.
Rossi said she was sad to be done with the dance club. She said she enjoyed the collaborative environment of the extracurricular activity.
“It’s a whole different side of dancing, really,” she said.
MacDougall said the high school’s 900-seat auditorium was packed for performances, leaving standing room only for the March 14 show.
She described the club as “like my creation”. Besides keeping her busy in retirement, it makes her feel like she’s giving back, she said.
When asked how long she planned to stay with the program, she replied, “I don’t know, maybe forever.”