GDS Get Up and Dance

GDS Get Up and Dance
Dani Seiss

In early February, the Lower School Physical Education Department held its annual dance assembly, a celebrated event that has been a GDS tradition for so long, no one seems to know exactly when it started. Three of the four current LS P.E. teachers, Jeffrey Trembly (JT), William Miezan, and Peg Schultz—who organize it, along with Garrett Milam who joined in 2021—have been working on it for 20, 23, and 24 years, respectively. 

They stress that “gym” as we know it in the traditional sense, and physical education, are not the same thing. The dance unit is an example of how GDS focuses on the latter, in that it not only works on the students’ strength and cardio-vascular health, but also on balance, coordination, spatial awareness, cognitive learning, and cooperation—all while simultaneously providing an outlet for self-expression and creativity. 

The unit begins the first week after Winter Break, and students perform on the second Friday in February–only a month of preparation. This doesn’t allow for much rehearsal time. In preparation, teachers must also find fitting musical selections, create the choreography, and plan for costumes and/or props.  

The students then rehearse four days a week, beginning with basic rhythms and learning to count to music. During that time, the teachers carefully choose the musical selections for the assembly. “You've gotta dig deep. Make sure the artist checks out, it’s on beat, that the kids like it and that it keeps them motivated,” said JT.                             

“We look for songs that are clean, we look for songs that are by a diverse set of artists and fit with a certain theme. You need a beat speed kids can dance to. We also try to find songs that the audience can relate to. Maybe they know the song, maybe they can relate to the message of the song. There’s a lot of considerations that go into it,” said Peg.

“Then we see how we can tweak,” William said, “We can adjust the moves. Sometimes the moves are too difficult so we modify them.”

Peg continued: “We look to see if there is [already] choreography to that song and see what moves we can use, what moves we have to make up.”

“Sometimes when it comes to moves; we know the kids are very creative,” said William, “Especially third and fourth graders. So we use their suggestions–we incorporate them creatively. It makes more sense to [the students] when they come up with the move [themselves].” 

That personal aspect is something that is memorable to the students–something that can stay with them for years.“Because I coach athletics, students tell me they remember when they were doing the dance assembly and how nervous they were. But also that it was amazing for them,” said Garrett. 

Peg explained that physical education has always had a component of dance. Dance is a lifetime movement, so the unit is befitting of the GDS physical education principle “fit for life.” 

“Not every kid has dance experience or likes to dance, but we hope that between the upbeat music, a message, and some props, that we can bring them joy,” she said, “One of my favorite things is when we do the ‘Cha Cha Slide’[at the end of the assembly.] Everyone in our GDS community [joins in]. Often the kids are showing the parents how to do the dance. There’s such a great connection. It’s a unifier.”

This year’s theme was “GDS Get Up & Dance,” and the musical selections included:

View all videos and entire assembly >>



GDS Get Up and Dance
  • Lower School