Tag Archive | "Ross School"

Planting Cultural Seeds At Ross

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Shinnecock native Matauqus Tarrant leads Ross School students in a dance during the Shinnecock Green Corn Festival that was held on the grounds of the Ross Lower School on Wednesday, 6/17/15

Shinnecock native Matauqus Tarrant leads Ross School students in a dance during the Shinnecock Green Corn Festival last Wednesday. Photo by Michael Heller.

By Mara Certic

For the past several months, fourth graders at the Ross School have been learning about Native American history and culture from their Shinnecock neighbors. Last week, they celebrated the culmination of their studies with a Green Corn Festival on the grounds of the campus on Butter Lane in Bridgehampton.

Students and families of the Ross Lower School gathered last week to take part in a celebration of learning, growing and Native American culture. Members of the Shinnecock Nation came to perform, tell stories, and explain more about their history and way of life.

Andrina Smith, a 2003 graduate of the Ross School and member of the Shinnecock Nation, remembers the impact that her school had on her, and wanted to promote the Shinnecock Reservation in the Ross community when she first reached out to fourth-grade teacher Alicia Schorbine about creating a new program for teaching students about Native Americans.

“One of the wonderful things about the Ross curriculum is that there are threads which enable so many parts of cultures to be explored,” Ms. Smith said over the phone this week.

“The fourth grade focuses on Native America,” Ms. Smith explained, “And we thought why not connect the Native Americans they’re learning about with the ones who live down the road?” she said.

After speaking with other members of the tribe, Ms. Smith got together with Ms. Schorbine and the two decided to collaborate on an indigenous plant program to teach the 9-and-10-year-olds.

Students and teachers did research on indigenous plants, and the adults looked into which plants have beneficial properties. “We wanted to give them an experience that focuses on Native American healing and sustainability within the garden,” Ms. Smith said.

“But this year’s focus was more on getting plants in the ground,” she added. The indigenous plant project is ongoing, and will continue in fourth grade classrooms at Ross for years to come, she hopes.

In fact, the school has plans to incorporate it not just into its fourth grade curriculum, but also to incorporate the new indigenous plant program into the Summer Camp @ Ross. Next year, the curriculum will evolve to use the plants to make healing teas and balms, Ms. Smith said. “In this world of over-medicating and pharmaceuticals, the concept of using nature to heal yourself has been lost in general culture,” she said.

“We also want to instill in them this notion of native: The native peoples using these native plants,” she said. “It ties into the larger scene of local living. It’s such an important lesson that this generation of children are going to need to have,” she said, adding that embracing what is local is the only way the earth will be able to heal itself.

Ms. Smith said that in the past few years, she has been able to spend time with an aunt with Montaukett blood who lives in Rhode Island and was trained by a medicine woman.

“I pretty much go up there to work on my traditional education,” Ms. Smith said, reiterating that she too is in the very beginning stages of learning how to create different healing blends.

“There’s a lot of talk of cultural appropriation and having respect for culture, but not always for the people who make up the culture,” she said. For that reason, there are some Shinnecock secrets that are sacred and that the nation is hesitant to indulge with Ross students.

“It’s a very fine line to walk. You always want to bring truth and honor to projects, and truth and honor to the endeavor of working with students,” Ms. Smith said. “But you also need to bring truth and honor to your ancestors and the ancestral land,” she added.

“I’ve made it my personal job to find ways to positively incorporate the Shinnecock nation into the East End. Similar to the Ross School, I feel like there is an image of Shinnecock, and an image of Ross, that’s purported but doesn’t always reflect the true integrity of the school or of the tribe,” she said.

Ms. Smith said she feels the burden of being a minority in a predominately wealthy area, while many members of the African American community can no longer afford to live here and are being pushed out. “The Shinnecock Nation is not going anywhere, this is our tribal land,” she explained.

“So since we’re not leaving and the rich people of the Hamptons aren’t leaving, and with Southampton celebrating its 375 birthday, now’s a great time to just mend those bridges and strengthen the connection between the people who have always lived here and the people who live here now,” she said.

“And especially in the climate of our country right now, it’s really important that we find ways to unify.”


Parrish Recognizes 25 Young Artists

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The 2015 Student Exhibition, High School Artists Reception. Photo by Tom Kochie

The 2015 Student Exhibition, High School Artists Reception. Photo by Tom Kochie

On Saturday, February 28, the Parrish Art Museum will honor 25 young artists for their work that is on view in the 2015 Student Exhibition. Selected from more than 150 high school student participants by Neill Slaughter, a professor of Visual Art at Long Island University, C.W. Post campus, these up-and-coming artists will be celebrated at a ceremony at the museum, where Parrish Director Terrie Sultan and Mr. Slaughter will present Awards of Excellence to 19 Seniors, and “Ones to Watch” Awards to six underclassmen.

Mr. Slaughter, a practicing artist and professor for 36 years who has been the judge at several Student Exhibitions, based his selection of winners on a variety of criteria, not limited to ability nor talent.

“While I certainly value skill and technique, ultimately I look for an honesty and truth in the artwork,” he said. “Artists become inspired by something, which is … interpreted as well as communicated visually. The best art is transcendent, whereby the viewer is emotionally moved or taken to another place by the artist’s interpretation.”

The ceremony will be held from 1 to 2 p.m. with Parrish Education Director Cara Conklin-Wingfield announcing the names of the winners, who will come forward with their teacher to accept certificates. Refreshments will be served at the event, which is open to the public.

The Student Exhibition, a 60-year tradition at the Parrish Art Museum, opened this year on January 31 and is on view through March 1, featuring the work of more than 2,000 young artists from public, private, parochial, and home schools on the East End.

On the Southampton and East Hampton towns, East Hampton High School’s Claudia Fino will be honored for her drawing, “Three Spheres.” Southampton High School’s Kim Gonzalez will be awarded for her mixed media piece, “Concentration.” Pierson’s Theo Gray will be honored for his photography project, “Untitled.” East Hampton High School’s Brenden Snow and The Ross School’s Brenna Leaver are also honored for their untitled photography projects. In printmaking, Pierson’s Daniella Nolan has received honors for her piece, “Innocence;” The Ross School’s Evelyn Jiaoxue and Abby Wang will also be honored for “Untitled,” and “The Rape of Nanking,” respectively. In 3-D sculpture, Pierson’s Zoe Diskin will be honored for her “Self Portrait Assemblage.”

Southampton’s Abby Clemente and East Hampton’s Elvis Uchupaille have been named as underclassmen “One’s to Watch.”

The Parrish Art Museum is located at 279 Montauk Highway in Water Mill. For more information, call (631) 283-2118 or visit parrishart.org. 

Local Teacher Lectures on the Legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

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Jack Hill at Canio's with students


Jack Hill gave a lecture on the legacy of Dr. King at Canio’s Books on Saturday. Photo credit Kathryn Szoka.

By Mara Certic

Dozens of people squeezed into Canio’s Books on Saturday to hear not just about the many accomplishments and achievements of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., but to understand his legacy and why his message remains relevant and important today.

Professor Jack C. Hill is a writer, educator and diversity advocate, and is currently  dean of World Languages and World Literatures at the Ross School.  Mr. Hill has begun doing research on Dr. King for a book he is working on, he said on Saturday.

His fascination with Dr. King began in childhood, he said, when his mother would recount stories of the great leader and orator who sought out to change unjust laws during the Civil Rights movement.

However, during his discussion with Sag Harbor residents and Ross Students taking him up on his offers of extra credit, Mr. Hill chose not to speak about what Dr. King accomplished, but how he accomplished it and why that is pertinent today.

“Dr. King held no political office, and yet he is still one of the most important Americans in history,” Mr. Hill said, comparing him to both Presidents Lincoln and Washington. “He is an embodiment of American democracy.”

Mr. Hill, whose writing has appeared in publications such as The Baltimore Sun, Afro American and The Chicago Defender, spoke at length about the power and strength of Dr. King’s rhetoric.

By intertwining biblical themes with African American tradition, “He forged his own identity, and used it to connect with people across racial and economic boundaries,” Mr. Hill said

“When Martin Luther King spoke, it was almost like he was singing. It pierced the soul of people of all colors; people were sort of enthralled with it,” he added.

“But we don’t talk about the fact that he had a lot of practice,” Mr. Hill said, referencing the years many Dr. King spent at Morehouse College, where he regularly preached to seas of fellow students.

It is important that we remember the uncomfortable details of Dr. King’s life, Mr. Hill said. It is important to recall that Dr. King wrote the words “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” while in a jail cell in Birmingham, Alabama.

“Martin Luther King was a political prisoner. That’s one of those provocative things we don’t talk about. We don’t like to see this great American a prisoner. But he was jailed over 26 times,” Mr. Hill said.

“We would much rather see him on the podium talking about these American ideals. But in 1963, he was writing as a Birmingham prisoner. He saw himself as a political prisoner—and we have to talk about that,” he said.

The 50 to 60 threats a day against Dr. King’s wife and four children, also must not be forgotten, Mr. Hill said. Nor should the fact that Dr. King refused to seek revenge after his house was bombed. “That’s what I call focus, and a dedication to the movement,” he said.

Mr. Hill attributed much of Dr. King’s success to his singular ability to inspire a movement and raise the consciousness of a nation. According to Mr. Hill, movements such as Occupy Wall Street failed because there wasn’t one organized leader who carefully strategized, as Dr. King did.

“This is a question we’re dealing with in Ferguson,” said Mr. Hill, who has spent considerable time in St. Louis.

“I don’t think it’s an anti-police position, but it’s a group of people who have been suffering for a long time but have not been heard,” he added.

“We live in a country where African American people are stressed. They work harder for less, get paid less, pay more for less. So again when we think about the American Dream, we cannot adapt this idea of color blindness, because color blindness does not exist. We cannot teach our children to be color blind, but we can teach them not to be afraid of race,” Mr. Hill said.

Alumni Artists on Display at the Ross School

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"Head in Hand" by Bronwyn Roe, Ross School Class of 2006.

“Head in Hand” by Bronwyn Roe, Ross School Class of 2006.

By Tessa Raebeck

Their artistic pursuits have taken them to coveted galleries, television studios and the country’s best art schools, but, working across mediums and the world, the 19 artists in this month’s Alumni Art Exhibition have one thing in common: they cultivated their creativity at the Ross School.

The exhibition highlights alumni artists working in cinematography, design, photography and more, who have graduated from the high school in the last 13 years. Keith Skretch, who designs video for live performance and installation in New York and Los Angeles, graduated in 2001, while Zac Wan of the class of 2014 is currently studying as a freshman at the School of Visual Arts.

The show features the work of 19 former Ross students at different points in their careers. New York University film major Noah Engel, ’11, and Sara Salaway, ’11, who studies photography at Bennington College, are still in the midst of their studies, while Andrina Smith, ’03, works as an actor, playwright and singer.

Despite being just over a year out of high school, the class of 2013 is well represented in the show; Aiyana Jaffe, a photographer studying at the Rhode Island School of Design, Riko Kawahara, who is studying graphic design at the Pratt Institute, and Alia Knowlan, a Savannah College of Art and Design student, are all participating.

While many of the artists returned to the East End for the show, others have forged their careers in the local community. An MFA candidate at Carnegie Mellon, Tucker Marder also works locally as an artist, curator and director. Most recently, he presented an adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut’s “Galápagos” at the Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill, a sold-out performance he co-directed with fellow Ross alum Christian Scheider.

John Messinger, ’02, has also managed to build his career in his hometown. The photographer and artist has shown locally at Guild Hall, the Romany Kramoris Gallery and the Watermill Center, as well as nationally, and will have his first one-man show in New York City this fall.

Filmmaker and cartoonist Dan Roe, ’04, is a media studies teacher at Ross. His latest film, “Weenie,” premiered at the Hamptons International Film Festival in October and will be playing at Cinema Club next month.

“At Ross, you are always given the chance to pursue what interests you,” said Mr. Roe, who will show his cartoons in the exhibit. “For me, I was able to work on countless video projects and draw cartoons all the time…. This kind of project-based learning allows students to integrate what they love and what they’re good at into their learning and not only is that fun and empowering, it also fosters a stronger engagement with the material of a given class.”

Aiyana Jaffe, Ross School Class of 2013, with her untitled piece.

Aiyana Jaffe, Ross School Class of 2013, with her untitled piece.

“It’s not simply art-infused, but fully integrated,” he added of the Ross curriculum. “This means, in a nutshell, that all domains… all fold in on one another and there is no clear division between them. What you get, when all is said and done, is an ingrained understanding of human activity as a complex, with every idea, invention, change, work of art inextricably linked to everything that goes on around it. On the most basic level, this has helped me in applying the approaches I used in filmmaking to making cartoons and vice versa.”

Photographer Alexandra Strada, ’06, Molly Weiss, ’06, MFA candidate at Columbia, independent artist and curator and cinematographer Hunter Herrick, ’03, Skidmore College senior Julian Mardoyan-Smyth, ’08, photographer Kate Petrone, ’05, SUNY Purchase graduate and Ross School house parent Ryan Duff, ’04, painter and visual artist Bronwyn Roe, ’06, and portrait artist Clarisa Skretch, ’04, will also display their work in the show, which is on display through December 18, at the Ross School Gallery, located at 18 Goodfriend Drive in East Hampton.

High School Sailing Thriving at Breakwater

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Skipper Maxine DeHavenon from East Hampton High School and crewman Liam Kenny from East Hampton Middle School sailing off Sag Harbor on Monday

Skipper Maxine DeHavenon from East Hampton High School and crewman Liam Kenny from East Hampton Middle School sailing off Sag Harbor on Monday

By Gavin Menu

Far from any video game, smartphone, house chores or homework, students from the Ross School, Pierson and East Hampton High School gather on fall afternoons to rip across the water in Sag Harbor Bay. Just outside the breakwater and beyond Sag Harbor’s fleet of multi-million dollar yachts, the sport of high school sailing is alive and well.

“I practically live here,” said Wyatt Moyer, a student at Ross who is on both the fall and spring sailing teams and participates in the Breakwater Yacht Club Junior Sailing Program during the summer months.

While many of their friends play more traditional interscholastic sports like soccer or field hockey, members of the local sailing teams call Breakwater their home base and travel to competitive regattas across Long Island.

Moyer and four other Ross students, along with five sailors from East Hampton and two from Pierson, currently make up a collective team from the East End. They also compete, at times, as individual schools depending on whether a regatta is structured as a team event or designed for individual boats.

“More are welcome and recruiting is in process, possibly with sailors from Southampton, Bridgehampton, Sagaponack, even Riverhead,” said Sean Elliot, the sailing director at Breakwater. “High school sailing at Breakwater is open to anybody middle school and up who is interested in getting involved.”

Sailors on Monday took advantage of 18-knot wind gusts and jockeyed for position during a series of practice races, which take place daily from 4 to 5:30 p.m., rain or shine. Watching from the club’s usual race committee boat, Elliot spoke about a student who walked into the club cold a week ago, said he was tired of sitting around after school every day and hasn’t missed a day of practice since.

“A lot of the kids who come out stick with it, and that’s basically what the club is all about,” Elliot said about Breakwater, which charges junior sailors just $30 per year to become members, with no additional costs to be a part of the sailing team. “Rather than sitting around on the couch, they’re out here on the water learning to sail. It’s an amazing experience.”

Breakwater also serves as host for the high school spring season, which is much larger, according to Elliot, with about 25 sailors expected to compete starting in March of next year. The fall season runs until Thanksgiving, even as temperatures begin to plummet.

“You’d be surprised what some of these kids can endure,” Elliot said, adding that the club helps with equipment and foul-weather gear.

The team this fall will attend regattas at The Stony Brook School and The Waterfront Center in Oyster Bay, with Elliot and two other coaches— Martin Monteith and Dwight Curtis, who are both from Ross—hoping to compete with The East End Youth Sailing Foundation, which is based out of the Old Cove Yacht Club on the North Shore and is the home base of the Mattituck High School sailing team.

“High school sailing is booming nationwide and we are glad to help promote it to the fullest extent,” Elliot said. “Besides being a great sport for young sailors, building confidence and team unity, it is also great for the their college applications. College coaches are consistently checking on local high school events and we have some great connections at that level.”

Students interested in getting involved can call Breakwater at (631) 725-4604.

Skipper Cole Colby and crew Veronica Ko, both from the Ross School sailing on Monday.

Skipper Cole Colby and crew Veronica Ko, both from the Ross School sailing on Monday.

Adults on The Water Too

Breakwater’s Wednesday Night Fall Series will come to a conclusion next week as the club’s bigger boats continue to battle for local bragging rights. Fred Stelle sailed Witchli to a win in Division 1 last Wednesday, September 17, posting a corrected time of 47:28. David Betts and Charlene Kagel, aboard Instant Karma, finished second in 49:24 and Lee Oldak, aboard Purple Haze, finished third in 50:22.

In Division 2, it was Jim Smyth and Derrick Galen sailing White Lightning to victory with a corrected time of 50:07. Osprey, captained by George Martin, finished second in 51:28 while Wave Equation and captains Bruce Dinsmore and Joan Worthing finished third in 56:46.

In East Hampton, Box Art Auctioned to Aid East End Hospice

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One of the pieces that will be auctioned off at the Box Art Auction to benefit East End Hospice next Wednesday.

One of the pieces that will be auctioned off at the Box Art Auction to benefit East End Hospice next Wednesday.

By Sam Mason-Jones

A 14-year-old tradition continues over the coming weeks with the auction of a number of ornamentally decorated boxes to benefit East End Hospice. In 2000, supporters of the facility gathered the support of about 100 local artists, each of whom was asked to transform a single wine or cigar box into a work of art. The success of the enterprise, both artistically and monetarily, has enabled it to continue as a highlight of the late summer each year since.

This year, the benefit will take place on Saturday, September 6, at the Ross School Center for Well Being on Goodfriend Road in East Hampton, where all of the boxes will be sold in a silent auction beginning at 4:30 p.m. Before the auction, the public will have a chance to see the selection of boxes at viewings at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in East Hampton on Wednesday, August 27, and Thursday, August 28.

A chance to meet the artists prior to the sale is also available at a preview reception after the first box viewing at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, August 27. Among the 90 contributing artists are Eric Fischl, Connie Fox, Stan Goldberg, April Gornik, James Kennedy, William King, Stephanie Brody-Lederman, Daniel Pollera, Randall Rosenthal and Frank Wimberley.

Another participating artist, Hans Van de Bovenkamp, said, “East End Hospice is one of the most loving organizations when the light dims near the end of living. To help through donating, such as artists do with their work, or through volunteering, is one of the most profound and satisfying acts.”

Tickets for the benefit, which includes wine and hors d’oeuvres, are priced at $75 and are available at eeh.org. All proceeds benefit East End Hospice.

Summer Camp @Ross Empowers Kids With Quacks

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Summer Camp @Ross Director Christopher Engel, right, and counselors greet campers on their way into camp Tuesday, July 1. Photo by Kristen Hyland.

Summer Camp @Ross Director Christopher Engel, right, and counselors greet campers on their way into camp Tuesday, July 1. Photo by Kristen Hyland.

By Tessa Raebeck

“Pablo Picasso says,” Christopher Engel shouts, before aggressively flapping his arms and quacking like a duck. The crowd of some 250 kids gathered around him begins quacking too, perhaps to the dismay of the late Pablo Picasso.

For Mr. Engel, director of Community Programs at the Ross School in East Hampton, which includes the Summer Camp @Ross, now in its seventh year, doing ridiculous things is a means to set the stage for children to feel comfortable in their own skin.

“We try to make it imaginative and fun,” Mr. Engel said Tuesday, July 1, adding that the goal is to “make everyone feel good about who they are [and to] empower them to try and do things.”

Campers start their day by walking underneath a giant rainbow canopy, held by their counselors outside the entrance to the Wellness Center at Ross’s Upper Campus. Music blasts and the counselors dance with an energy you don’t often see among those under 25 at 8:30 a.m.

Ross Campers hang out before morning meeting Tuesday, July 1. Photo by Kristen Hyland.

Ross Campers hang out before morning meeting Tuesday, July 1. Photo by Kristen Hyland.

After dancing their way through the rainbow, campers go inside to check in with their counselors and hang out. Most of them chat excitedly, a little girl shows off her magic tricks to tennis program director Peggy Stankevich and another girl can’t seem to stop doing cartwheels.

One particularly tall counselor, Gari Blackett,  a basketball coach at the camp who is associated with the New York Knicks organization, holds a basketball up while some 10 boys jump at him.

At the campwide meeting each morning, assistant camp director Nick Behrens shoots a basketball backward over his head, aiming for the hoop at the other end of the gym. According to campers, he makes the difficult trick shot a lot, but today is not his day.

Backward basketball, although fun and somewhat ridiculous, has a serious intent behind it, Mr. Engel said. It is about empowering kids to try and do things and to feel comfortable being a little silly.

Campers can personalize their experience to pursue their own interests in sports, science, the outdoors and the arts. There are over 25 camp majors, including Junior Crime Investigators, Fashion Design, Filmmaking, Photography and Gymnastics. During the eight-week program, campers choose minors and majors. They go to their majors for the bulk of the day in the morning then regroup at lunch and do minors in the afternoon.

On Tuesday, Mr. Engel asks campers whether they think Jon Mulhern teaches tap dancing—as Mr. Mulhern does a little jig—or culinary—Mr. Mulhern pats his belly—or if he leads the Inventor’s Workshop. The tap dancing jig gives him away as the Inventor’s Workshop director.

Mr. Mulhern and counselors fashion a bridge made entirely of Popsicle sticks, hot glue and string in between two tables. A weight is hanging from the makeshift bridge. A volunteer from the mass of campers comes forward to hang on the weight and, somehow, it holds him, then another camper, a junior counselor and eventually counselor Lily-Anne Merat.

Inventor’s Workshop is one of the programs offered at the Innovation Lab, Ross’s science, math, engineering, media and technology academy. Jr. Crime Investigators, a new major in which campers are challenged to become detectives for the summer, learning forensics analysis skills like fingerprinting and ink chromatography, as well as collecting crime scene evidence and interviewing and interrogating suspects, is also offered at the lab, as are Stop-Motion Animation, Naturalist Explorers and Robotics.


Photo by Kristen Hyland.

Inside the lab Tuesday, Summer Term students are trying to replicate the pieces of a Mr. Potato Head on a 3D printer. The three boys work with instructor Creighton Wirick and Dr. Dave Morgan, dean of science at the Ross School and director of the Innovation Lab. One of them has refashioned Rio de Janeiro’s famed statue “Christ the Redeemer” from his home country Brazil.

Campers can supplement time in the lab with outdoor activities like basketball, golf and rugby. On Tuesday, the multisport and dodge ball majors combined on the fields, with kids aged 6 to 14 competing. One would think the advantage went to the preteens, but counselor Bailey Arens insists the 6-year-olds are a threat, as they are prone to “sneak up on you,” he said.

From horseback riding to sneaking up on bigger kids to pelt them with dodge balls, the intent at Summer Camp @Ross is to help campers do what feels best. Or, as Mr. Engel said, “If you’re smart, make the sound of a dog—Pablo Picasso says woof.”

Dance Troupe Spends Summer Teaching and Performing in East Hampton

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A performance by BodyStories: Teresa Fellion Dance. Photo courtesy of Teresa Fellion. Photography by Andy Phillips

By Mara Certic

Teresa Fellion was a hyperactive toddler. When she was about two-and-a half, her mother decided it was time to get her involved in an energy-expending hobby. And that’s how she started dancing.

Ms. Fellion’s New York City-based dance company, “Body Stories: Teresa Fellion Dance,” returns to the East End this summer to teach, perform and inspire.

In the past, the contemporary dance troupe has held a few performances on the East End during the busy summer season. This year, however, a partnership with the Ross School’s summer camp program will have the modern dancers posted in East Hampton until mid-August.

Ms. Fellion was traditionally trained in a regional ballet company, but her dancing is anything but traditional. Since she graduated from college, Ms. Fellion has had quite an eclectic dancing career. In a phone interview on Sunday she told the story of how she danced with Phish at their would-be farewell concert.

“My brother is a huge Phish fan, and in 2004 they were breaking up and it was a big thing. I had just graduated from conservatory and I knew I wanted to choreograph—I wanted to make dances,” she said. “And I thought to myself, ‘I bet they need dancers!’”

According to Ms. Fellion, Trey Anastasio and the other members of the band were receptive to a press kit that she put together after her epiphany and “they invited us to perform five or six times with them at the Coventry Festival in Vermont on several different stages.” Plans fell through to do a warehouse performance for a recent album, but Ms. Fellion added that “I’m in touch with [Phish]; someday we’ll do something with them again.”

Ms. Fellion, three teachers from her company and an intern will run the dance curriculum during the seven weeks of the camp. Summer Camp at Ross offers 27 one- or two-week long “majors” that allow participants to explore a certain area in depth, be it dodge ball, surfing, photography or dance.

Those who choose the dance major will learn about technique, improvisation and composition—and even learn some parts of the company’s current repertory.

Like Ms. Fellion, many of the dancers in her company are classically trained and will teach that technical precision during the summer program at Ross. Ms. Fellion also looks for something else: “diverse backgrounds, that’s something that I covet,” she said.

Ms. Fellion spent a year dancing in Cameroon and performed at the country’s national soccer cup finals. “I had never been to a soccer game before. I went to the national soccer cup finals, the stadium was on fire and then you’re on the field, dancing in the halftime show,” she said. “It was a real out of body experience.”

“I want dancers with that versatility,” she said.

But the classes will also be geared toward the students’ needs, she said. A large portion of them will be dedicated to improvisation and composition exercises. “We very much want the students to have self-generated movement,” the dancer said.

In addition to the classes at the camp, the company will also put on a series of drop-in workshops (pre-registration requested!) for adults on Wednesday and Thursday evenings. Again, she will cater to her students’ needs and mentioned that she is yoga-certified, and that she could happily teach a yoga class but “if people want to incorporate dance into yoga that’s a class I do too.”

One class would be what she described as a “dance/fitness/fun class.” “This will meet everyone’s needs. It’s lively, there’s some conditioning but also dancing for expression,” she said, adding that all of her classes are open level.


For those who would rather observe, on top of a few informal performances for campers, the company will dance for the public on Thursday, July 31, and Saturday, August 2.


“The show will be a mix of four of our five active repertory pieces,” she said.


“No One Gets Out of Here Alive,” is a humorous tongue-in-cheek piece about junior high school. Whereas “Fault Line” is an all-female piece that starts out balletic “and then gets more and more intense.” “The Mantises Are Flipping (P.S. I’ll Have Whatever They’re Having)” has amusing moments but also “interesting partnering” she said. “They are all so different.”

Pierson and the Ross School Win Big at the 12th Annual Teeny Awards

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Pierson High School students rehearse the final dance number of "A Chorus Line" in the high school auditorium January 26. Photo by Michael Heller.

Pierson High School students rehearse the final dance number of “A Chorus Line” in the high school auditorium January 26. Photo by Michael Heller.

By Tessa Raebeck

Up against 15 other competing high schools, Pierson High School and the Ross School took home 10 awards between them at the 12th Annual Teeny Awards ceremony at Longwood High School Sunday, June 8.

Hosted by East End Arts, the Teeny Awards recognize exceptional acting, directing and technical work in the theatre productions at local high schools. The 2013-2014 awards saw the entry of over 30 dramas, comedies and musicals, with more than 1,000 students involved in the casts, crews, pit and production teams.

“Whatever position you hold in a theatrical production–it is of the utmost importance,”  Teeny Awards Coordinator Anita Boyer said in a press release Sunday. “Each member of the troupe relies on the others in order to pull off a show and being a part of it is such a unique and incredible experience.”


Pierson High School

Before a crowd of past Teeny Award winners, theatre owners, local politicians and other distinguished guests, Pierson students performed the number “What I Did for Love” from “A Chorus Line,” warming up for what would be a long night of shaking hands and grabbing trophies.

Pierson took home one of the biggest awards of the night, winning “Best Ensemble” for its production of “A Chorus Line.”

The technical end of “A Chorus Line” was also featured in a heavy showing during the awards. Shelley Matthers was recognized for her role as stage manager and Shane Hennessy took home a technical design recognition award for his role in lighting design for ”A Chorus Line,” as well as Pierson’s other productions “A Murderer Among Us” and “The Fantasticks.”

Emily Selyukova was also recognized for technical design for her work as set designer and student director for “The Fantasticks.”

Emily and the entire cast of “The Fantasticks” took a Judges’ Choice Award home to Sag Harbor for their work as a student run and directed production.

The Lead Actress in a Drama award went to Rebecca Dwoskin of Pierson for her performance as Olga Buckley Lodge in “A Murderer Among Us.”


The Ross School

The Ross School also had a strong showing. Joannis “Yanni” Giannakopoulos was named best supporting actor in a drama for his performance as Scotty in “Median.”

Ross also earned best supporting actress in a drama, with Amili Targownik winning the award for her solo showing in “The One-and-a-Half-Year Silent Girl.”

The supporting actress in a comedy award resulted in a surprising tie, but the twist simply gave Ross School two awards instead of one; For their performances in “The Grand Scheme,” Daniela Herman, who played Bethel, and Naomi Tankel, who played Clarice, were honored.

Inga Cordts-Gorcoff was awarded a prize for her role as stage manager for “One Acts” at Ross.

Ross School Students Test Exploration Challenge for National Geographic Kids

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Jeong Ho Ha, Harrison Rowen, Caio Garcia, Sunny Gou work on the National Geographic challenge at the Innovation Lab @Ross. Wil Weiss photo.

Ross School students Jeong Ho Ha, Harrison Rowen, Caio Garcia and Sunny Gou work on the National Geographic Kids Engineering Exploration Challenge at the Innovation Lab @Ross. Wil Weiss photo.

By Tessa Raebeck

Building a camera that can withstand a tiger’s attack, another that can be raised and lowered into a forest canopy and a wearable power system that can charge devices for explorers in the field, students at the Ross School recently tested three tasks for the National Geographic Kids Engineering Exploration Challenge.

For a week in February, students at the Innovation Lab @Ross, an academy within the school that seeks to develop entrepreneurship in science, mathematics, engineering, media and technology for advanced students, tackled real-world problems faced by explorers. The Ross students served as the official testers of the challenge for National Geographic, which publicly released the guidelines to the rest of the world in a launch March 6 in the April issue of National Geographic Kids magazine.

“Since they found out about the Innovation Lab and the sort of hands-on project-based stuff that we do, they got the idea that it would be good to have a school to sort of test these engineering challenges before they went live,” Dr. David Morgan, dean of science and director of the Innovation Lab, said.

“The education review has always been a key part of our process at National Geographic before we launch new programs,” Kathleen Schwille, vice president, education design and development of Education Programs at National Geographic, said in a statement. “We asked Ross School to participate in the assessment of this project because we recognize a great deal of synergy between our philosophies, which is specifically evident in programs like the Innovation Lab @Ross.”

Some 20 students in grades four, six and high school participated in the test challenge. The younger students are part of the Junior Innovation Lab, an after-school program for grades four through eight that is also academic and for which students receive grades.

“The challenge gives budding engineers worldwide the opportunity to try to solve some of the technical problems that National Geographic explorers face in the field every day,” a press release issued by the company stated.

The challenge had three different levels, so students could participate in their respective test based on their age and ability.

The first challenge, tested by the youngest students, asked them to design, build and test a camera that can withstand an attack from wild animals in the field. In “Eye in the Sky,” the second challenge, students created a system that can raise a camera at least 10 feet in the air and safely lower it back down. The third and most challenging of the tasks was “Wearable Power,” in which high school students were asked to design, build and test a wearable way to generate at least 1 watt of electricity without the help of an electrical outlet, to enable those in the field to charge their cameras, equipment and other devices.

For the most part, fourth grade students undertook the animal-proof camera challenge, sixth graders tested “Eye in the Sky” and high school students constructed wearable devices for generating power, although Dr. Morgan said there was some overlap.

“They were actually able to create working prototypes [in a] nice range of levels and projects and the students came up with some really, really interesting ideas,” he said.

In addition to testing the actual tasks of the challenge, Ross students explored different means of doing so. Some students completed the project in a “day-long hack-a-thon,” working straight through from noon until 5 p.m. from beginning to end, designing, building and testing all at once. Other groups completed their projects by working on them for an hour a day for five days.

“One of the things we try to do in Innovation Lab in general,” explained Dr. Morgan, “is to give students big blocks of time to work on something. And the students accomplished way more in that big block of time, where you don’t have to pack things up and put them away at the end of every class. You can really do the whole thing at once and not interrupt your train of thought, so it was actually really successful.”

In the challenge to develop a wearable power system that can generate electricity to charge devices in the field without using an outlet, one group of high school students at Ross made a device resembling an orthopedic knee brace. They outfitted it with an electric motor, so that every time the person wearing it flexes their knees, electricity is generated, effectively creating power just by walking. Another group used hand-cranked electric flashlights embedded in the heel of a shoe, to generate electricity every time the wearer steps down and their heel hits the ground.

Through its participation in the challenge, the school was able to test several different formats at once, seeing how students worked in small groups versus big groups, the hour of time versus the hack-a-thon, and how the different age groups related to the challenge. Feedback on both the challenges and the Ross experience was provided to National Geographic and that guidance was incorporated into the public challenge.

Students enjoyed the projects so much that many hope to also participate in the public, worldwide competition, Dr. Morgan said.

After entering their designs online, along with a short description, video and photographs, students in the actual competition are judged “not just on which one works the best, but they’ll be judged on their creativity and their perseverance and their imagination,” he said. “So it’s not just about who’s generating the most volts of electricity, it’s about who has approached the engineering process with the right mindset…the challenge isn’t so much about winning, as it is about getting students to be creative and use their imaginations.”

During the official launch event of the public challenge, Ross students were invited to Skype with the personnel at National Geographic, to share their feedback and solutions.

National Geographic’s mission is to inspire people to care about the planet,” said Ms. Schwille in a statement, “and we firmly believe that today’s most pressing global issues will be solved by tomorrow’s engineers.”