In September 2009, a few months after Michael Jackson—the King of Pop— passed away, the dance team danced to his music as a tribute to the icon he was—since he was a dancer and choreographer in addition to being a singer.
When Aretha Franklin— the Queen of Soul—passed away a couple of months ago, Norfolk Academy dance master Elbert Watson wanted to honor her in a similar way. He set about making sure this year’s fall dance concert would do just that.
The show, called “For Aretha and Other Royalty,” features pop songs from Aretha’s album, A Brand New Me, which features the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra - only fitting that an orchestra worthy of such a regal name be accompanied by the Queen of Soul!
Aretha and dances to pop music will not be the only features in the performance. While the first half will be Aretha-based, the second half will consist of music from King Louis XIV’s court; “Sing Sing, Sing, Sing” by Benny Goodman; songs by the King of Soul, James Brown; a solo piece choreographed and performed by Jenna Archambeau ’19 to Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror"; and a dance to Halsey's "Castle," choreographed and by Marissa Mejia '19 and performed by Mejia and some of the dance team members. Every genre of dance will be showcased in the span of one hour and 15 minutes, from classical ballet to hip-hop. This year’s fall dance team is comprised of 13 students in grades 8-12, so they all have prominent roles in the different routines.
“In order to reach the status of king or queen, you have to be the best at what you do, work the hardest at what you do,” said dance master Elbert Watson. “These artists were at the top of their genre because of their work ethic and because they bettered the art form. I once had a Russian instructor who told me, ‘Technique is like having a coloring book with perfect lines...but you have to color in the lines to make it great.’ It describes the work ethic of our kids at Norfolk Academy. This is a salute to (Aretha) and what she stood for, which is excellence. It goes back to our dance team’s motto, ‘Excellence is a standard, not a goal.’”
There are three opportunities to view these exhibits of excellence in dance. Open dress is at 4:00 p.m. on Thursday, October 25, and the other two performances will be held on Friday, October 26 at 5 p.m., and Saturday, October 27 at 3 p.m.