When Lian Wang arrived on Blair’s campus in 2007, together with her husband, language and history teacher David Facciani, she brought more than just a passion for education. Ms. Wang, who grew up in Tianjin, China, is a classically trained dancer who concluded a three-year tenure with the acclaimed Chinese Army Dance Troupe just before joining the Blair community.
Ms. Wang teaches Chinese 1, 2, 3 honors, 4 honors and Advanced Placement (AP), while Mr. Facciani teaches Chinese 1, 2, 3 and 4, as well as AP microeconomics. She was first hired as a full-time dance teacher. After the academic dance program was dissolved, she added the after-school yoga and dance activities to her schedule in addition to her role in the classroom teaching Chinese. Ms. Wang and Mr. Facciani, along with their daughter, Angela, live in Kathryn Hall, where they are housemasters to 40-plus upper-school girls.
This year, Ms. Wang is the faculty coach of Blair’s recently revived dance program. Now considered a team sport, the program fulfills the athletic requirement for freshman and sophomores and is offered during the winter and spring. Participants meet five afternoons each week in the dance studio in Armstrong-Hipkins Center for the Arts or the studio in Hardwick Hall, where they practice a range of styles, including classical ballet, modern jazz and hip hop. Dancers of all experience levels are welcome to participate.
At Blair, Ms. Wang embraces the community and the impressive opportunities students have to express themselves. In what follows, she shares more about her background, her love for dance and the difference this program will make on campus.
Q. Why are you so passionate about dance?
A. I started dancing at a very young age as a hobby. I went to a regular elementary school until age 12 and was then selected to join an arts high school to become a professional dancer. As I grew older, I realized that dancing gave me the opportunity to express myself in a very unique way. When I came to Blair, I had just finished a three-year tenure with the Chinese Army Dance Troupe, where we focused on Chinese classical dance, folk dances of different ethnic groups and Chinese contemporary dance. I knew the joy that dance brought me, and I wanted to bring that love and passion to the students of Blair Academy.
Q. Why is dance at Blair a team sport now?
A. By making dance a team sport, it is easier for students to fit it into their busy schedules, which gives them a level of dedication to the art. There has been a growing demand for a larger dance program by current and prospective students, and we are so happy we’re able to offer it as a team sport. Currently, the team consists of 13 students, 12 girls and one boy.
Q. What’s unique about the dance team at Blair?
A. I think what makes it so unique is the amount of collaboration happening in the studio. Not only am I leading the practices, but so are the students. Because we are a team, I want to give them the opportunity to take charge. We practice many styles of dance, and a few of the students are more experienced in particular areas. One of the students has been dancing competitively since she was young, so I have made her the assistant choreographer. Dance at Blair really provides the opportunity for teamwork and leadership.
Q. What does the average practice look like?
A. The team meets five days each week for about 30 minutes, and we practice a variety of styles. We usually start with a warm-up/stretching, followed by center floor exercises and end with combinations. There is a variety of experience on the team, from beginners to advanced dancers. I make sure each practice is as easy or challenging as needed for each person. Every combo can be made harder by adding in extra steps or turns. By doing this, the students all are dancing together, rather than separately in smaller groups.
Q. Why should students join the dance team? What are the benefits?
A. The dance team gives students the unique opportunity to work as both a team and an individual. The students are dancing as a group, working together as a team to perform a routine in unison. But, as you are performing choreography together, dancing provides a very personal experience as well. You learn more about your own body and its movements, and how to better express yourself. There are so many added benefits to dance that people don’t realize. This team is really for anyone who loves to dance, and anyone who would love to put in the hard work to learn proper technique.
Q. What do you hope for the future of the team?
A. As we continue to learn and grow together, I hope there will be increased formal opportunities for the team to perform around Blair’s campus. Next year, the dance team will perform during a Chapel in February. I hope that as we look to the future, the group will continue to grow and there will be more opportunities to see their hard work showcased.