Something New Is in the Air: Arts Magnet High Schools

By Topaz, Muriel | Dance Magazine, April 1995 | Go to article overview

Something New Is in the Air: Arts Magnet High Schools


Topaz, Muriel, Dance Magazine


There is an unprecedented growth in the number of schools centering their curriculum on preprofessional training in the visual and performing arts, with dance training prominently featured.

According to Network, an international organization of arts schools founded in 1983 with twelve members, there are now over one hundred schools featuring the visual and/or performing arts. The large majority are arts magnet high schools, public schools that stress arts training. Most arts magnet schools accept students from their entire county or state. Since they are part of the public education system, they are tuition-free. In some cases, out-of-state students are admitted for a fee. Typically, arts magnet schools are located in cities with populations of 500,000 to 1,000,000, although a significant number are in smaller communities. They are ethnically and racially diverse and enroll both young men and women.

IS IT FOR ME?

Are you ready for an intensive dance program in high school? You must be fully committed to dance in order to savor the delights and successfully negotiate the rigors of a "dancing high school." You will have to do well in academics as well as in dance because at most' schools students must maintain at least a C average in academics and a B average in dance courses.

Usually, the day is organized in blocks, with four or five academic periods in the morning and three or four dance classes in the afternoon, or vice versa. In some schools, both academics and dance are in one location; other schools bus students from one locale to another. Many, but not all, schools require additional after-school or weekend rehearsals.

Fiorello H. La Guardia High School of Performing Arts in New York City, is the oldest of all arts magnet schools and the role model for almost all of the others. (It's also the school that the 1980 movie Fame was based upon.) Students at La Guardia take both a ballet and a modern dance (Graham-based) class daily throughout the four school years. In addition, each year they study another aspect of dance: history; acting; theater dance, including character, jazz, tap and historic dance; choreography; and career management. The Los Angeles County High School for the Arts has a similar curriculum: The core technique classes are in modern dance and ballet; additional courses include improvisation and choreography, tap, aesthetics, history and criticism, performance techniques, mime and gymnastics, pointe, and career counseling. At the Booker T. Washington High School for The Performing and Visual Arts, in Dallas, students receive four years of ballet and modern dance instruction. Other classes they may take are tap, jazz, folk dance, character, repertory, composition, costume design and construction, Labanotation, technical production, rhythmic fundamentals, history, elements of performing, and musical theater. These rich course offerings aim to produce educated, versatile dancers who can do just about anything a choreographer asks for. …

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