Norfolk Academy opened a new frontier in its Alumni Seminar Series with a class on breathing and stretching taught by Dance Master Elbert Watson.
“Let’s Take Time to Breathe” proved an appealing title, as adults across the country—and around the world—deal with social distancing, the stress of working from home, helping their children learn online, and the economic crisis, among the many other challenges beyond the health concerns of the pandemic. Everyone seems to need a little help with some calm breathing; the seminar had blockbuster enrollment with more than 80 registered to attend.
While the session was part of the Alumni Seminar Series, it blazed a new path in its approach; all previous seminars have focused on discussions—of nonfiction, fiction, and sports seasons. This seminar was all about movement, featuring a head-to-toe stretching regimen carefully calibrated to varying degrees of flexibility.
Mr. Watson, who exhibited flexibility borne of a lifetime in dance, starting with his work as a principal dancer with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, punctuated his instruction with frequent reminders to “Inhale” and “exhale,” so that those in the seminar gradually grew calmer as their muscles became more limber.
When he concluded the session after about 40 minutes, many in attendance chose to stay in the Zoom a little longer, updating him and Headmaster Dennis Manning on their current whereabouts and activities. Mary Wheaton '09 was doing her stretches from “across the pond” in Ireland, where she is in graduate school. Several said they were still dancing, even many years after graduating from NA.
Tabor Furr ‘13 said that while doing the stretching, she imagined she was back in the dance studios at school, where she rehearsed as part of the dance team.
Veterans of the school’s Winter Musicals were in the crowd as well, and Karim Muasher ‘01 recalled playing Fagin in Oliver, in the years when the production was done in Price Auditorium, before the construction of the Tucker Arts Center and the Samuel C. Johnson Theater.
Arts alumni will have a chance to walk down memory lane in an upcoming seminar, scheduled for 7 p.m. June 4 with Ms. Caroline Bisi, director of the Winter Musicals and drama teacher; Ron Newman, former director of Winter Musicals and former director of the Fine Arts Department; and Mr. Watson, who has created, and continues to create, show-stopping dance numbers for the Winter Musicals for all of the years that Mr. Newman and Ms. Bisi have directed them, most recently for The Addams Family.
The next Alumni Seminar, at 7 p.m. May 28, focuses on fancy footwork of the athletic kind: The Best of NA Boys Soccer: Bulldog Booters Kicking Memories Around is a discussion with Varsity Soccer Coach Greg Monaco ‘07, and special guests Sean Wetmore ‘86, who coached the soccer team for many years and currently serves as Director of the Batten Leadership Program, and Kevin Sims, president of United Soccer Coaches and a former NA teacher-coach.
Invitations to alumni seminars are emailed to all alumni and can be found on the Alumni News and Events page on the website.