Returning home: Pioneer Valley Performing Arts School hires former students to lead workshops

Electra Nearey leads students in a contemporary open style dance class Friday afternoon at Pioneer Valley Performing Arts School in South Hadley.

Electra Nearey leads students in a contemporary open style dance class Friday afternoon at Pioneer Valley Performing Arts School in South Hadley. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Electra Nearey leads students in a contemporary open style dance class Friday afternoon at Pioneer Valley Performing Arts School in South Hadley.

Electra Nearey leads students in a contemporary open style dance class Friday afternoon at Pioneer Valley Performing Arts School in South Hadley. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Electra Nearey leads students in a contemporary open style dance class Friday afternoon at Pioneer Valley Performing Arts School in South Hadley.

Electra Nearey leads students in a contemporary open style dance class Friday afternoon at Pioneer Valley Performing Arts School in South Hadley. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Electra Nearey leads students in a contemporary open style dance class Friday afternoon at Pioneer Valley Performing Arts School in South Hadley.

Electra Nearey leads students in a contemporary open style dance class Friday afternoon at Pioneer Valley Performing Arts School in South Hadley. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Pioneer Valley Performing Arts School students participate in an open contemporary dance class led by Electra Nearey on Friday afternoon in South Hadley.

Pioneer Valley Performing Arts School students participate in an open contemporary dance class led by Electra Nearey on Friday afternoon in South Hadley. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Electra Nearey leads students in a contemporary open style dance class Friday afternoon at Pioneer Valley Performing Arts School in South Hadley.

Electra Nearey leads students in a contemporary open style dance class Friday afternoon at Pioneer Valley Performing Arts School in South Hadley. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Electra Nearey leads students in a contemporary open style dance class Friday afternoon at Pioneer Valley Performing Arts School in South Hadley.

Electra Nearey leads students in a contemporary open style dance class Friday afternoon at Pioneer Valley Performing Arts School in South Hadley. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Pioneer Valley Performing Arts School students participate in an open contemporary dance class led by Electra Nearey on Friday afternoon in South Hadley.

Pioneer Valley Performing Arts School students participate in an open contemporary dance class led by Electra Nearey on Friday afternoon in South Hadley. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Electra Nearey leads students in a contemporary open style dance class Friday afternoon at Pioneer Valley Performing Arts School in South Hadley.

Electra Nearey leads students in a contemporary open style dance class Friday afternoon at Pioneer Valley Performing Arts School in South Hadley. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

By EMILEE KLEIN

Staff Writer

Published: 01-14-2024 5:00 PM

Modified: 01-16-2024 10:16 AM


SOUTH HADLEY — Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Charter School scans old rosters for this year’s January’s Guest Artist Series, hiring seven alumni to bring their skills and knowledge of dance back home in a series of 11 workshop classes.

Rather than inviting past students to teach solely for experience and resume-building, the charter school compensated guest dance instructors Jacqueline Ashley, Janavia Miller, Lisette Ayala, Julian Smith, Anaia Cayode, Nate Odel l and Electra Nearey to support young artists and honor their expertise.

“I think a lot of them would have come in because they like to come back, but it’s really important that we honor the fact that they are bringing real skill and knowledge to us from whatever corner of the world they’re studying in right now,” PVPA dance instructor Felice Santorelli said.

In the last two weeks of the semester, PVPA offered two days of workshops in Hip Hop, Jazz, Vogue, Yoga, Conditioning, Horton technique, Contemporary and Limón styles to expose seventh through 12th grade students to different styles of teaching and showcase future opportunities or career paths for students.

“But I think seeing like a recent graduate, come back and say like, ‘This is what I started at PVPA and now I’m doing an even more in the world,’” Dance Department Lead Jayme Winell said. “You can really get things out of your PVPA experience that will really serve you.”

Nearey, a Southampton native, structured her Limón workshop based on her technique classes at The Boston Conservatory at Berklee College of Music. She first started teaching dance in eighth grade as an assistant to a tiny tots ballet class at The Hackworth School of Performing Arts, an independent dance studio in Easthampton.

In high school at PVPA, she assisted middle school teachers in seventh grade dance classes and took on leadership roles in Catalyst Dance Company, the school’s pre-professional dance group.

‘I also think that I had such a diverse training before and now I am kind of in very specific classes. Right now I’m doing a lot of ballet and a lot of modern ... I’m very much learning this codified techniques,” Nearey said. “I’m happy to bring that back and give a taste to what you can learn outside of here.”

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Senior Carmen Quiñones and freshman Bella Mok said they’re familiar with Limón from past assignments, but none of them have taken a full class on the style. Quiñones and Mok both attended the class for a new experience.

“I used to dance with Electra and it was really great to see her again,” Mok said. “I don’t do that much modern dance, so it’s nice change of pace for me.”

Juniors RJ Hoover and Cianna Meredith both enjoyed the technique work focused on expansion, opposition and fall explored through various leg swings. Meredith said she attended the workshop to try a different school’s teaching style and investigate a possible path after graduation.

“There’s just not many opportunities for outside arts to come in so I think it’s a really great thing. Especially alumni because they know the teaching and the student body (here),” Hoover said.

Odell, meanwhile, taught a Hip Hop workshop based on his education and professional work in Los Angeles. Originally from West Springfield, Odell also studied at Hackworth and performed with Catalyst. Since graduating, he focused on Hip Hop through training with African diasporic dance specialist Shakia Johnson and urban fusion artist James Morrow. Odell has won awards for his choreography with various western Massachusetts’s dance studios.

Beyond providing an opportunity for current PVPA students to grow, Odell and Nearey gave back to their alma mater and provide a resource to the next generation of dancers.

“I think that this place was really pivotal in my growth and where I ended up,” Nearey said. “I don’t think that would be where I am today without PVPA. I think that if I can give an ounce of that back and inspire a few kids, if that’s all I really want.”

Emilee Klein can be reached at eklein@gazettenet.com.