At Summit Christian Academy, six high school students, who call various different countries home, draw together for a common love: dance. Together, they create a community as members of the school’s Rhythm and Blue dance team.
Coached by Haylee Walker, this international dance team includes two students from China, one from South Korea, one from Peru and two from the Americas.
“This is my first year coaching,” said Walker, who is also a sixth-grade teacher at the school. “When I took on the dance team, I was nervous because I didn’t have any English as a Second Language experience and wasn't sure what to expect.
“Sitting here six months later, I honestly cannot imagine a better experience. These girls are some of the most incredible women, of any age, that I’ve had the pleasure of working with.”
Throughout the month of February, members of Rhythm and Blue had an opportunity to work with and dance beside 32 fellow students between first and sixth grades. Together, dance team members choreographed a performance and mentored the younger dancers for the team’s annual Elementary Dance Camp Fundraiser. After several weeks of rehearsal, all of the dancers were scheduled to perform during halftime at Friday’s varsity basketball game.
In addition to the annual fundraiser, Rhythm and Blue also performs at school pep rallies and during halftime at all home varsity football games. Walker says future plans include participating in area dance team competitions.
As part of their exchange program, students on the dance team live with SCA families or faculty members. Most will attend the Academy for the duration of their high school career. Before coming to the United States, several of the students studied English in their home country, but not all are fluent.
This year’s Rhythm and Blue members speak four different languages — and with this diversity come a few challenges.
“Making four different languages work in one dance team takes effort,” Walker says. “Yet, while difficulties with communication or language barriers can sometimes happen, everyone on the team is patient and understanding. Ultimately, bringing all of these cultures together creates a beautiful mosaic of God’s creation.”
Senior Joy Chen, who is from China, agrees.
“I value the different perspectives of team members,” she says. “It’s interesting to see how each person interprets the dance differently and to learn from each person. I’ve also learned about the importance of communication.”
Senior Doris Li, also from China, feels she has gained greater collaboration skills.
“I’ve learned how to compromise with other team members,” she said. “It’s not about me, it’s about the whole team.”
Even with these challenges, Walker and her team see the rewards that come with their multinational talents. Being exposed to and learning new languages, traditions and beliefs are among the greatest.
“I might not get the chance to visit the countries where my teammates are from, so learning about where they live is an incredible opportunity for me,” said senior Rachel Beumer.
Junior Rachel Lee, who is from South Korea, believes that the diversity cultivates harmony and respect.
“Dance is a way of expressing emotions with our body, and every country has a different way of expressing emotions,” she said. “This difference is so valuable.
“Knowing and respecting the difference always make us love one another more. More than anything, we love each other so much that the energy is sent to the audience while we’re dancing.”
As a universal art form, Walker also believes dance unites her team members, while also building confidence and leadership skills.
“I think that the added aspect of ‘performing’ separates dance from other sports that other students may be a part of,” Walker said.
“It takes a lot of confidence for dancers to perform in front of any audience. I think that confidence is the biggest benefit of being a part of the dance team.”