Jannelle Grey isn’t saying whether her dance team at J.N. Fries Magnet Middle School will be doing the NaeNae at a new competition for N.C. schools. That would be a no-no.
But the sixth-grade math and science teacher – leader of the school’s Knightly Dance Ensemble – is as excited as her students about the first-year Just For Kix North Carolina Dance Ensemble Competition.
The event, open to all N.C. secondary public, charter and independent schools, will host one of its three regionals at Kannapolis’ A.L. Brown High on Nov. 7. There are separate divisions for high schools and middle schools.
Kannapolis will host the West Regional. Northwood High in Pittsboro will host the Central Regional and Broughton High in Raleigh the East Regional, both on Nov. 14. The state final is Dec. 5, at Wakefield High in Wake Forest.
“Oh, my gosh. It was so exciting” to learn about the competition, said Grey, a choreographer for Miss Donna’s School of Dance. “Where I am as a competitive choreographer, just the thrill of competition is amazing. … But to have it at the school level and have a chance to represent the school is awesome.”
This is Grey’s first year at J.N. Fries and the first year the school has had a dance ensemble, she said. So her 30-student team is “beyond excited, but they’re also very nervous.”
Sixth-grader Meadow Gettles of Concord downplays any anxiety. “Being a competitive dancer, I am so excited to share my passion on the school level,” the 11-year-old said. “The competition is such an amazing opportunity!"
The competition will include two events, jazz/hip hop and contemporary/lyrical. Grey’s ensemble is going with the former.
“Our kids are more interested in that at this point,” she said. “You have dances like the NaeNae (a hip-hop staple) and stuff like that they learn from the music videos. Plus, it’s a little easier to teach hip-hop to students who don’t have formal dance training.”
More than 30 ensembles have registered for the North Carolina Association for Scholastic Activities event, according to Shannon Meyer, its associate executive director. The competition requires a significant commitment for both teachers and students.
“It requires a lot of planning on my part,” Grey said. “I’m also big on the music that we use because it represents our school. We want to emphasize dignity and respect for others.
“I teach the kids the movements, but we only have a limited time at school so it’s then their responsibility to learn it. I’ll teach it one week and then next week, they need to have it down. It becomes an addition to their homework. It’s a big time constraint, but it’s worth it.”
She said her ensemble includes only one boy but that she’s hopeful to recruit more.
“Often at this age it’s … are they going to get picked on for expressing themselves in this way? Luckily at this school our students are encouraged to express themselves however they want to. We really try to highlight their talents here.
Whether boys or girls, “They say dancers are the athletes of the gods,” she said. “It’s so true because I watch my kids do things with their bodies that I never thought possible.”
Reid Creager is a freelance writer. email@example.com
Details, registration (open through Oct. 16): www.ncscholastic.org.