Dance student Rosario Guillen (B.F.A. '20) writes from the Parks and Recreation Summer Program of his hometown of Pharr, Texas, where he has spent the summer as artistic director and head choreographer for the ballet and dance program.
This summer, I am working as an artistic director and head choreographer for the Parks and Recreation Summer Program in my hometown of Pharr, Texas, teaching students between the ages of 5 and 14. I am extremely fortunate to be able to share my love and knowledge of dance with my community.
This will be my fifth summer teaching in the program, and I am responsible for the ballet and dance program as well as choreographing the city musical, Shrek the Musical. Teaching more than 100 students every day and choreographing over 20 dance numbers over the summer isn’t always easy, but seeing the kids grow as performers and develop a passion for dance keeps me motivated and always striving to be the best teacher, choreographer, and friend possible.
We produced a Hawaiian-themed ballet and dance program for which I choreographed a short ballet to a medley from Moana and a high-energy jazz number to a fun-in-the-sun-inspired mix. Choreographing Shrek the Musical was loads of fun, but it also came with its challenges. The musical required long dance breaks, as well as individual choreography for many characters. Nearly 70 kids are involved in the production, and making sure everyone is on the same page is always the biggest challenge.
One of my favorite memories was choreographing “Forever,” the dramatic ballad the dragon sings before capturing Shrek’s faithful steed, Donkey. I turned the solo into an elaborate all-girls ensemble, which was extremely fun to choreograph. We all had a blast—from seeing the girls channel their inner divas for this sassy number, to my running around the stage giving corrections while showing them the choreography. Both the students and I laughed at my attempt to get sassy in demonstrating how the number should be performed.
I am constantly encouraging my students to pursue their passion. Every summer I talk to them about how important it is to follow their dreams in spite of those who may disagree with a career in the arts. I remind them that if this small-town boy who started dancing at a late age made it to one of the most prestigious conservatories in the nation, they can, too. Working at this program has taught me a great deal and is a rewarding way of giving back to my community.