Shirlene Blake Believes Performance Lets All Your Fears Go Away

Shirlene Blake has been the Harvest Collegiate dance instructor since its founding, and is loved by staff and students alike. She holds strong, passionate beliefs that a good arts program in schools is essential to student wellness and achievement. In the fall, she was honored with the New York State Dance Educator Association 2016 K-12 Dance Award. For the Coffee House, she prepared her dance class to perform two numbers.

How much planning went into this event? [pauses and laughs] I did not help plan this event, Colin really planned most of this event. I got two dance numbers ready.

How prepared do you feel your dancers are? Oh, the dancers are definitely well-prepared.

How important do you think the arts are in schools? You’re asking me a big question. I definitely think the arts are 100% important in  schools. I think the arts help students feed their creativity. I feel the arts help students release and use their imagination. I feel that the arts also help feed student academic achievement, because it allows them opportunities to express themselves in ways that academics don’t necessarily do, but they compliment each other. I think the arts helps students in terms of — You know, what does it mean to be determined and to fail and to make mistakes and be able to pick it up and keep doing it and keep doing it and keep doing it. I think the arts does all of those things.

In your perspective, what is the value in performing in front crowds? The value of performing in front of crowds is an opportunity for students to find, like, what is that thing about themselves that allows them to be expressive when they’re in front of people? Performing allows you to be able to speak to someone differently, it allows you to kind of let all your fears go away. But even if you feel scared, the fact that there’s all these people watching you and you still have to get up there and perform, there’s this thing that allows you to be a better speaker, be able to do your capstones better. You know, it’s just all those things that allow you to put yourself front and center.

Interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.