Junior and Senior Dance Company have dazzled FSHA and the local community for decades; today, they join with the 25 percent of the student body in dance classes each spring for the annual Dance Concert.
We offer four levels of dance. In all classes, we touch upon various dance techniques, including contemporary concert dance, ballet, hip-hop, jazz and yoga/pilates, as well as composition and choreography. Our dance companies, which meet outside of the school day and are audition based, perform in the annual Dance Concert, during some prayer services and other school related events throughout the year. Company auditions are held every May and are open to incoming freshmen.
The annual Dance Concert is a major event across the entire school, with approximately 25 percent of the student body participating. Recent productions have paid tribute to identity ("Continuum," 2017, "This I Am," 2016), different genres in the sciences ("Dancing With the Stars...and Planets...and Black Holes," 2010), film ("Lights, Camera, DANCE!," 2011), religion ("Devotions," 2012) and language ("Body Language," 2013).
When dance teacher Cindy Montoya joined the faculty in the fall of 2013, FSHA knew they were hiring a dynamo. As a performer and choreographer, her work has graced movie screens, television studios, stadium stages and even basketball courts (yes, she’s a former Laker’s Girl!). Luckily for FSHA, Cindy will add one more spectacular venue to her resume this spring when the Arts Center Remodel is completed. We caught up with Cindy who told us what it takes to put on FSHA’s largest performing arts event of the year—the annual Dance Concert.
A: Being raised in a Latino household, there was always music and dancing at family get-togethers and weddings. My parents were excellent dancers, not trained, but could cha-cha and jitterbug for days. But it wasn’t until I saw the musical, A Chorus Line, at the old Schubert Theater that I knew I wanted to dance more seriously. My mother supported my new passion so when she heard about an audition for a ballet company in Pasadena she encouraged me to go for it. My father drove me there and watched the audition. He was just as surprised as me when they told me that I had gotten accepted into the junior company. The director, Mrs. LeMone, later told me that she saw something in me—a hunger, a fearlessness and a true joy of dance that encouraged her to take a chance on a young girl from La Puente with no prior dance experience.
I became the first Hispanic member and the first scholarship recipient of the respected Pasadena Dance Theater. My dance skills were honed and my love for dance was nurtured. She also encouraged me to audition for the UCLA Dance program. I got accepted and I am proud to say that I became the first college graduate in my family.
A: Every year, I put pressure on myself to make the next production even more artistically interesting and impactful. But my main goal is always to give the students an enriching experience—one that allows them to explore another medium of expression that involves the total self, while also fostering their creativity and self-confidence. I also want them to learn more about the art of dance, collaboration and hard work.
A: Taking the lead from my first dance teacher Mrs. LeMone, and my parents and teachers who supported me and encouraged me along the way, I tend to hone in to individuals who have a certain potential, not necessarily the best technicians—maybe it’s musically or a fearless character or simply an incredible connection to movement. If I see something there—a desire, a need to dance—I accept the student into the company. That stood out to me, so I took a chance last year with some of the boarders who didn’t have much prior dance training and it’s starting to pay off. They showed amazing growth this year and with a positive experience under their belt, I think they encouraged their friends in the boarding hall to audition. Next year, half of our leadership team will consist of boarders and half of the hip-hop team will be boarders.
A: I’ve always believed that dance is another way of praying. Having a strong faith and knowing that my path to teaching and dancing professionally only happened through the grace of God and a spiritual connection to my art, I have always wanted to bring dance and prayer together. Coming to FSHA the timing seemed right for a liturgical company. I now belonged to a faith community and so it was only natural to nurture the liturgical dance foundation that had been laid by previous FSHA dance teachers.
The hip-hop team also came about in a natural way. I try to choreograph to my students’ strengths and I noticed that some of the dancers who weren’t formally trained had a natural ability and desire to dance hip-hop. In their spare time they would come to the studio, put on music and just freely dance, mostly hip-hop … and they were really good! I decided to recruit a group of girls from the junior and senior companies to create an informal hip-hop team and it was a success. Next year, the hip-hop team will be its own company with around 16 members and will meet twice a week, separate from the junior and senior companies. I’m really excited to see where this team goes in the future!
A: There are so many wonderful aspects of teaching at FSHA. The autonomy is wonderful and the faculty and parents are so warm and engaging. But I’d have to say that it’s the students who get me excited to come to work every day. They keep me on my toes, they challenge me, give me discipline and love and strength to keep teaching, to keep doing what I love. They are the heart and soul of the FSHA community!
A: The theme has to be something that excites and inspires me and it’s important that it allows for diversity in dance styles (as well as cultural diversity). Last year, I found myself discussing with colleagues and reading about many issues that had to do with identity. I started to think about my own path … where I came from and where I am going. As I shared my own experiences and questions with my students, a flood of complex and honest conversations started to form. Their stories and insight ignited my inspiration to settle on the identity theme: This I Am.
Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy is an all girls' Catholic, Dominican, independent, college-preparatory day and boarding high school in the hills of La Cañada Flintridge. Overlooking Pasadena, FSHA educates girls from Los Angeles, Southern California and around the world for a life of faith, integrity and truth.
Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy
440 St. Katherine Drive La Cañada Flintridge, CA 91011 Phone: 626-685-8300