Dancers stand at barres

June 26, 2023

LANCASTER, Texas -- The sounds of conga and bongo drums ring in full volume across the Lancaster High School dance studio as drummers play an uptempo Afrobeat. It's summertime, but thirty dance students are at school and focused on Michelle Gibson, aka Mz. G, as she leads the class through the steps of the routine. Their eyes are full of determination and pride as they execute the choreography.

The reason for the students' laser focus is the Lancaster ISD Fine Arts Department summer dance camp. An Afro-Modern intensive class focusing on a fusion of contemporary modern practices rooted in diasporic elements led by Mz. G.

"Mz. G has done work with the district before and positively impacted the young dancers," said Stacey Lotten, Director of Fine Arts. "She brings this incredible energy, is a great motivator, and understands how to inspire people. I wanted to give the students a teacher who could do that. Afro-Modern is a dance style they don't typically interact with because most dance instructors are more comfortable with African style. But the fusion adds another element to the dance I knew would be great for the students to learn."

The camp was open for students between seventh and twelfth grades and was designed to provide young dancers with a fun and safe environment to hone their skills and explore new dance styles. Mz. G also provides the students with lessons on dance history.

Lancaster High School DC3 Dance Company member Chassity Brumfield says the camp has helped her connect to her roots.

"Learning more about Black culture and how it is so connected to dance has been an eye-opening experience," said Brumfield. "I love being able to dive deep into dance history and explore the Black impact of dance surrounded by people who look like me. One of the things I'll carry with me as I continue to dance is to hold a powerful presence as a black woman."

Lancaster Middle School eighth-grade student Bailey Willis says learning the Afro-Modern style has been challenging but fun.

"I've been dancing for four years, but I've never done anything like this," said Willis. "On my first day, I knew that it would be a challenge because I'm used to always dancing a certain way, but I want to grow and be able to move my body in different ways. But I like the challenge because it gets a little easier every day, and I'm overcoming those hurdles."

Lotten says she wants the students to leave the camp feeling empowered.

"I want them to be inspired and to believe in themselves even more. They're all accomplishing something they never thought they could do or experience. I want them to finish the week knowing they can do anything they set their minds to," Lotten declared.

The students demonstrated the techniques, choreography, and other skills they learned during the week during their showcase on Saturday, June 25.

To view additional pictures from the camp, please click here.