Not Just Dance: East Rowan students put on a dance performance commemorating the 40th anniversary of ‘Footloose’

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 9, 2024

By Jasmyne Brown

For the Salisbury Post

GRANITE QUARRY — This year marks the 40th anniversary of the classic 1984 film, “Footloose.”

The film is based on the real life dance ban of Elmore City, Oklahoma, in the 19th and 20th century. The film stars Kevin Bacon as Ren McCromack, a newcomer who tries to change the law. 

To recognize this event, East Rowan’s AP English Language and Composition students developed and performed a dance production. All 21 students in the class, and even admin and teachers, participated and danced in the production on April 18 to a total audience of over 200 people. 

East Rowan’s Wendy Fontenot, English teacher of 18 years, directed the entire production with the help of her students. The production was part of Fontenot’s students’ final project.

“She’s known for her extravagant, hands-on projects,” student Briana Lyles said. “It’s her thing.”

Lyles has studies under Fontenot for three years. 

The class spent a month planning and rehearsing before finally performing the entire production.

“It was a group effort,” Lyles said. “Everyone was involved on and off the stage.”

They worked together to make the props, write the scripts, and choreograph the dances for all the scenes. After that, they rehearsed nonstop to make it perfect. 

The production was not based solely on the 40th anniversary of cult classic film. It not only demonstrated multiple dance scenes from the original movie, but also demonstrated dance throughout history from American literature and in cultures around the globe. It gave the audience a look at dance in the late 17th century, 1920 and 1980s and dance in areas all over the world. 

Since it’s the end of the school year, Fontenot wanted a way to incorporate everything her students have learned throughout the school year into a single project. After all, it’s her thing. Elements from plays and novels that her students have read in class throughout the year, as well as topics they have learned, were integrated into the project. Scenes from Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible” and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” were included in the performance, both tied to the common theme of dance. 

“It’s not just about dance,” Fontenot said. “Dance is a metaphor — a metaphor for personal liberty and freedom which you can see throughout our production. The main idea of the whole production was to show how love and respect for young people begins where censorship and manipulation end. It’s an important lesson not only for kids, but adults as well.” 

The performance begins with a scene from The Crucible, a play set during the 17th century Salem Witch Trials. It depicted how dance was known to be sinful behavior during this time and was associated with witchcraft and the devil. 

The second scene comes from The Great Gatsby, taking place in the roaring 20s, a time of jazz and Prohibition. The students portrayed a scene conveying how dance was believed to lead to the consumption of alcohol and the drunken antics that follow. 

The students contrasted the message portrayed by the first two scenes, dance leads to corruption, by exhibiting cultural dances from around the world: Africa, Ireland, India, Hawaii. The audience was given an insight into many of the purposes of dance around the world, whether that’s cultural identity or religious expression. It gave light to the positivity of dance. 

The main attraction was the Footloose finale. It demonstrated the overall theme of the production: dance as a segue for personal liberty and freedom and how this correlates to respect for young people. 

Andrew Thompson played Ren, the main character of the film. He performed a monologue portraying the importance of dance and how this led to the uplift of the dance ban, similarly to the real life Elmore City ban. 

Every student in the class danced in all four of the choreographed dances of this scene. Students said they choreographed these dances themselves and rehearsed back-to-back for days to ensure perfection when it came time to perform.

“The Footloose scene was surely the best one,” performer Sadie Featherstone said. “The dances came together so well with everybody in it.”

Thompson added, “It was a really fun learning experience, especially since almost all of us have no experience in dance or theater. I didn’t expect to enjoy it so much to be honest because there was so much to put together. In the end, it was great. I just wanted to keep performing.”

Social studies teacher Andrew Poston heralded the performers.

“The show was very entertaining,” Poston said. “I’m not exaggerating when I say, ‘I stayed and watched it four times in a row.’” 

The performance was a hit.

“These are the brightest of the brightest at our school,” Fontenot said. “Their cooperation and dedication to the production was amazing. It was a good time and I was beyond pleased with the final production.”

The student’s of the performance stated that dancing brought together and unionized the entire class; giving out parts and handling props, everybody had a job and purpose in the performance. Lots of dedication and hard work made everything come together. They overcame challenges and found enjoyment in the end.