Riviera Ridge School announces expansion of Visual and Performing Arts programming under direction of Miriam Dance

Riviera Ridge School announces expansion of  Visual and Performing Arts programming under direction of Miriam Dance
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Source: Riviera Ridge School

The Riviera Ridge School is celebrating the talents and vision for the arts with the announcement of Miriam Dance serving in an expanded role as Director of Visual and Performing Arts for the Riviera Ridge School. Dance has been with the school for eight years, directing plays and teaching various extension classes and electives. This new position will enable her to design and collaborate with the current visual and performing arts faculty to create even more opportunities for students to hone their artistic talents, connect with the community, and learn valuable life skills as well. 

“I’m all about a hands-on experience for our students,” Dance explained. Her various productions have provided students with numerous avenues to discover their talents and create a production themselves from the ground up. 

“I don’t know what it is, but I love creating something out of nothing,” Dance said of her many productions in which she gives students the opportunity to take part in every element of the process. For students who don’t want to act, Dance offers them the chance to take on other roles integral to the production, such as being a stage manager, creating the sets, or controlling the sound and lighting. 

An accomplished actor, singer, and director herself, Dance is responsible for turning a four-person elective into a fully fledged Haunted House, creating a full runway production with housemade sets for The Lion King, and debuting a partnership with the New Vic Theater as the Riviera Ridge middle School students presented community productions of “Seussical the Musical”  and “Wonka, the Musical”.

In her new role, Dance will continue to use an interdisciplinary approach to her methodology. “You can’t do theater without collaboration,” Dance said of the ways that students benefit from practicing these communication and teamwork skills as they notice the incredible results of working together. 

A few of her plans include working with Humanities and Visual Arts faculty together, like English teacher John Penton, to teach the students woodworking in order to build sets, creating a Season of the Arts, where student work is showcased throughout the school - whether it be visual or performance-based, and taking students out to see plays at local theaters and perform in these theaters as well. 

“The sky’s the limit; we have so many possibilities,” Dance said. Her background in and of itself offers students a wealth of experience and knowledge to draw from. Dance studied playwriting, theater, and directing at UCSB, and is a singer songwriter as well. She’s written for other artists, is on the board at Center Stage Theater, and maintains close ties to her UCSB theater professors. 

“I’m very connected with publishers, writers and musicians, which I think is very beneficial to connecting our students to people who are actually doing it, who are professionals,” Dance said. 

Her relationships with these musicians will surely aid in one of her main goals: to bring a concert band to the middle school. Dance hopes that students can learn music theory and eventually they can have a house band to play in their musicals. This program will also enhance their current popular elective offering “School of Rock” in which students form a rock band and perform for their peers. 

“I want the students to learn the language of art, to learn the language of music,” Dance said.

Dance’s new single, “Journey” about her recent experience with breast cancer, just came out and will be featured on the Breast Cancer Research Foundation’s website and social media accounts on March 3. “I like to use my art and my gifts to tell my story and encourage people who are maybe going through the same thing,” Dance said. 

Dance aims to continue to share her love of the arts with students and inspire them to develop their own passions. “Helping students find the artist within themselves and to see them actually do that is just so rewarding,” Dance said. 

At Riviera Ridge School, we provide student-centered, individualized learning in a joyful and nurturing community, inspiring academic excellence and valuing difference. The educational vision for each Riviera Ridge graduate is to empower individual potential, inspire purpose beyond self, and cultivate social responsibility as they prepare for high school and beyond. 

For more information, email info@rivieraridge.org or call 805-569-1811 ext. 131.

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