Spreading Awareness, One Dance Step At A Time

Woodbridge dance team takes the initiative to raise awareness for autism, mental health, Black Lives Matter, breast cancer and LGBTQ+ causes with the art of dance

Started in October 2020, the dance team began a new project that aimed to raise awareness for vulnerable populations through the medium of dance. The team selected various causes, such as autism, mental health, Black Lives Matter (BLM), breast cancer and the LGBTQ+ community, and planned to film and showcase their performance at their annual winter show in December.

“I wanted to empower [the] team to use their beauty, talent, confidence [and] intelligence, to make a difference in a way that might speak to others. My hopes for assigning this project and allowing students to pick topics that are special to them, was that they feel empowered to make a difference and inspired to connect to their movement and performance in a way that will push their boundaries as a dancer and artist,” dance team director Hanne Schmidt said.

Dancing For: Mental Health

Hashimoto finds peace in dancing for mental health awareness (Corina Silverstein)

“I chose to be a part of the mental health awareness group because I wanted to bring awareness to detrimental effects of social media on our mental health today, as it is something I have seen some of my friends struggle with. Our group focused mainly on social media and body dysmorphia. Many teens struggle with this, especially dancers. We have the perfect image of a dancer’s body engraved into our minds because of what society labels as ideal dancer bodies. We hope to bring light to those struggling with this and remind people that every body type is a dancer body. Social media only shines light on the bright moments of one’s lives, making other users feel unvalued. Many teens struggle to achieve an unrealistic perfect body portrayed by social media, resulting in eating disorders and shattered images of themselves. We hope to encourage everyone to help others to reflect on their real self, realize their true values and be able to smile at themselves when they look in the mirror. [Our] choreography reflects the effort of dancers trying to rip away from this illusion of our in-screen reality… and ends with a group section where dancers unplug from these distorted images of themselves and connect again, feeling confident in their own skins. Personally, this experience has compelled me to reflect on my own mental health and the health of those around me. The lockdown has taken away our time together as a team, drastically changing our day-to-day lives as dancers.Hearing our state championships getting cancelled provoked mixed feelings of anger and frustration. Then came feelings of emptiness. Rehearsals over Zoom during the lockdown was far different from being together in person. Even now, we practice in smaller groups outside to stay safe, and our emotions are masked in. This project has allowed me to reflect on these uncertain times, and grasp a sense of gratitude for all the small blessings we encounter with the short time we are given together as a team,” senior Senna Hashimoto said. 

Dancing for: Autism

Member of dance team and HALO club, Signorino, continues to show support towards the special needs community (Corina Silverstein)

“I chose autism as I have been a part of the HALO Club for three years now and wanted to continue working with them and their cause. Being able to work with others [towards] a common goal to spread awareness on something that not many have acknowledged [much] on, [and it] has shown me [how] to be more vocal about the issues and topics I want to help change for the better. Dance has been proven to help kids with their motor skills and communication and I hope to show the joy and impact that dance can have through this project. Staff and students can always donate money through the HALO website as well as spread the word either locally or on social media,” senior Jasmine Signorino said.

Dancing For: Black Lives Matter

Thayer-Pham leaps to pursue further inclusion and justice for the Black Lives Matter movement through dance (Corina Silverstein )

“I am honored to be representing the BLM movement because it is something that is very prevalent and a cause that has affected me in an unexpected way. To illustrate, before BLM began, I was oblivious to the challenges that black, indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) individuals faced, things that someone who does not identify with BIPOC take for granted. BIPOC face racial insults, discrimination to immigrate/emigrate to different locations, forced cultural assimilation, unfair treatment from police officers, mass incarceration [and more]. During BLM, I attended a protest in our city of Irvine and became more informed about these issues from first and secondary sources. [Our] project is different from other forms of activism, such as social media posts, because we are able to express the emotional and physical side of each of our causes without explicitly saying our thoughts. By omitting spoken words, individuals who feel differently than the message conveyed, will be less defensive and hopefully more empathetic and open minded. Specifically, my fellow peers in the BLM group hope to educate the Woodbridge community in a welcoming way with a topic that has undoubtedly polarized us on a nationwide scale,” junior Samantha Thayer-Pham said.

Dancing for: Breast Cancer

Using dance as a way to communicate her family’s history and experience, Murphy dances for breast cancer awareness (Corina Silverstein)

“I chose [the] breast cancer [cause] because about 5 years ago, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. She was cured a couple of years after. Those years that my mom had breast cancer were really hard, so with this project I want to tell her story and share what she went through on her journey to being cured. I hope to shed a light on my mom’s journey through breast cancer and how she didn’t let it stop her from anything. Storytelling is a huge part of dance and I feel that so far in this project.  It has given me and my fellow group members an opportunity to create a dance around a person and a cause that we care for. I know from my experience [that] it can be a time where you feel very alone and helpless having to watch someone you love go through such a horrible sickness, so having someone there for you helps a lot. The women who are survivors from breast cancer are strong and their stories deserve to be told to spread awareness. I really hope the dance team continues to implement similar projects like this in future years so that our dancing can have a bigger impact in spreading awareness about important causes in our world today,” junior Abigail Murphy said. 

Dancing for: LGBTQ+

Wong dances for love and equality for all within the LGBTQ+ community (Corina Silverstein)

“My cause is LGBTQ+ rights and equality because it’s the golden rule that everyone should be treated as you wish to be treated. I want to raise awareness for those in the community because it’s important to feel comfortable in your own skin and to know that you have people constantly supporting you and your rights to love and happiness. Students and staff can show support by spreading awareness through posting on social media and signing petitions in support of the causes. Being aware of the circumstances of others and recognizing privilege is also a key landmark on the road to equality. So far [from this experience, I] have grown more connected with those in my group. I have also educated myself more on the history of LGBTQ+ rights because understanding where we came from is critical in portraying how lucky we are to be alive right now and how even though there’s a long road ahead on the path to equality, we’ve already made waves. Although our team understands that there have been many downfalls regarding our causes, we’re choosing to focus on the celebratory aspects because the shortcomings are already heavily represented in the media. We want to show appreciation for the victories that have already been accomplished in order to bring people together rather than separate them,” senior Mackenzie Wong said.