DPHS dancers perform at regional dance festival | West Orange Times & Observer

After a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic, the Dr. Phillips High School Dance Magnet returned with its first performance in late February.

Members of the Dance in Motion company traveled to Vancouver, Washington to perform in the Regional high school dance festival.

Students had the opportunity to engage and socialize with dancers from 15 other high schools, perform selected choreography, and even audition for summer and college studies with recruiters from over 20 universities. .

The festival selected three of the magnet’s pieces to perform, including “Detours”, choreographed by students, by Bella Crews; “Into the Storm,” choreographed by Jon Lehrer; and “Hoopla,” choreographed by dance director Kathy Follensbee.

Crews, a senior at Dr. Phillips, said “Detours” was an experience like no other, with the process being interesting and helping her understand people better. She said she was most proud of this piece.

Follensbee said the event was made even more special because dancers opened and closed the Saturday night gala.

“All the teachers adored our kids because of their strength, their ability to sequence and do all the styles, and they know their bodies very well,” explained the director.

She said regionals were a wonderful weekend filled with plenty of opportunities for students, even though the magnet usually strays away from competitive settings.

“Walking through a museum you don’t have a number one piece of art, everything is beautiful, everything is designed to make you think or feel, just like every student is unique and special in what they create “said Follensbee.


The Dance Magnet debuted in 1991, four years after Dr Phillips opened in 1987.

The mission of the program is to prepare serious dancers for collegiate and professional work in a variety of dance styles.

Dancers who demonstrate advanced professionalism, mastery of movement, acquisition and performance skills in all genres will be invited to join the company.

Follensbee said members should maintain high academics, healthy bodies and collegial spirits.

Students who audition in the program have the opportunity to learn repertoire from various guest artists and travel around the county, state and country for various dance festivals and community performances.

This year’s Dance in Motion members are Nadia Allen, Bella Anderson, Aidan Branham, Cristina Coterillo, Bella Crews, Angie Figueroa, KaYori Harris, Ariaghna Parrilla, Valeria Perez, Reese Rutherford, Jazzy Thomas and Dakota Walker.

Senior President and Dance Magnet Cristina Coterillo said she loved the opportunities given to her in the magnet.

“I really feel like this program helped prepare me for the professional world and life beyond high school,” Coterillo said. “I want to leave knowing that I made a difference. I want to show artists that you can always grow and learn more.

The program also offers additional opportunities, including Introduction to Corporate Experience, for non-corporate students who come together to learn how to become corporate members, and Relevate in Search of Excellence, a new partnership launched with Orlando Ballet which includes practices and performances to give others in the company more opportunity and experience.

Follensbee said she hopes every child who enters the magnet learns to love themselves.

“I hope they celebrate the gift they bring because it’s very unique,” she said. “The hope is that each person, instead of focusing on jealousy or resentment, finds that we are stronger as a collaboration than we are as individuals.”


The theme of this year’s program is incredibly fitting: “The show will go on, despite…”

Follensbee said the studio has been a remarkable place for recovery, especially with the turbulent past years of the pandemic.

“When you cross the threshold of the dance studio, you can feel the sweat, the love and the care; we call it our sacred space,” she said. “(The pandemic) has been so hard on everyone, trying to keep them optimistic and moving them forward.”

The students even had to practice dancing with a mask, which they did in Vancouver.

As part of the ‘Hoopla’ performance, the magnet created six-foot hoops to represent social distancing and all the ‘hoops’ students had to jump through to navigate the chaos of the pandemic.

The students even put together a video to show what it looks like in the classroom and in the hallways.

Although the program is smaller and more intimate than usual due to the pandemic, Follensbee said the students continue to inspire him and have actually blossomed.

“I love that I can come here and dance and be with people who really understand how my brain works creatively,” Crews said. “It’s really helped me grow as an artist and as a person, especially during the pandemic.”


Follensbee is a full-time dance director at Dr. Phillips Visual and Performing Arts High School, as well as an adjunct professor of ballet and modernity at Valencia College.

With 36 years of service in the public school education system, she is passionate about bringing the arts of dance to everyone through a curriculum focused on creativity, collaboration, critical thinking and communication skills.

“(The studio is) a safe place for students to come in and be around like-minded people,” she said. “When you’re around other like-minded people, it’s like magic happens.”

As a dance director, Follensbee believes in athletic dancers, big movement and says yes to as many opportunities and experiences for dancers as possible.

She said the students are now working on preparations for their upcoming shows, including Elements of Dance, which features a variety of unique new choreography, a student showcase, a student-hosted concert featuring student-choreographed works, including selected music videos and the Senior VPA. Recital, which encompasses all DPHS visual and performing arts streams, where seniors from each stream will also perform their latest works as a high school student in front of their peers, administrators, teachers, and family.

Going forward, she said she hopes to continue to grow the program and ensure other students have the opportunity to learn and find a way to make the world a better place.


Elements of Dance: 7 p.m. Saturday March 26

Student showcase: 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 14

VPA senior recital: 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 10

For more information on tickets, click on here.

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