Performances are an opportunity for practical, program-related learning
Spectators at George Brown varsity basketball and volleyball games will no longer have to twiddle their thumbs during breaks in the action. The Huskies dance pac, a group of seven first-year students from George Brown’s dance programs, are bringing a more complete experience to the games.
First unveiled on Nov. 12, the initiative is the brainchild of Federico de Jesus Cortes Ortiz, event specialist with George Brown athletics and recreation. Ortiz credited manager of athletics and recreation Melanie Gerin-Lajoie with being open to the idea, one he believed is a perfect match between athletics and dance for enhancing student experience.
“It was a new platform when we pitched it, to do it for first-year students,” said Ortiz. “They never had the opportunity before, now they have it. It’s a great thing for them, and it’s a win-win situation for everyone.”
Throughout timeouts and intermissions, the dancers come out and give the audience a different kind of athletic experience. For dance performance preparation student Haley Boutilier, the dance pac is an important way to keep audience spirits high, helping to release tension in stressful situations.
Boutilier was happy to bring greater awareness of George Brown’s dance programs and saw real value in what she’s learned so far.
“We’re learning a lot of dancing big and projecting out,” she said of her program. “It really helps with this, because it boosts my confidence when I dance, knowing that when I go out into a group, I can perform to my best.”
While Boutilier possesses some pep rally know-how from high school, performing at a sports venue is a new experience for dance pac member Elizabeth Bravo. The fellow dance performance preparation student saw the unfamiliar setting as “good pressure,” and a situation where there is a direct line between opportunity and the workforce afterwards.
“Our program considers that after you graduate, you can do this work in a professional way,” said Bravo, who is taking all aspects from her program to the court. “This is actually our after graduation work, this or something like it.”
The dance students involved needn’t look far for a success story. An alumna of George Brown’s commercial dance program, Lindsay Aquin was brought on board in a paid capacity to coordinate and choreograph the Huskies dance pac.
Similar to Ortiz, Aquin, who is also a former member of the Raptors 905 dance pak, considered the squad an important improvement to school spirit.
“It’s definitely bringing a sense of community,” said Aquin. “It’s entertainment value. You have the contests, you have the dancing, you have the basketball, the cheering, it brings it all together and then you bring other parts of the school together.”
Happiness with the new initiative is across the board. In tandem with George Brown’s mascot Helder the Husky, the dance pac has delighted not only students, but staff as well.
“These girls are very talented,” said director of student experience Gerard Hayes, who cited the dance pac as an example of gaining good experience right on campus. “It adds a tremendous amount of excitement to our game and it brings us to a new level of professionalism.”