Cantico cultivates strong bonds through performance


Contributed by Isobel Souza

Cantico performs during the Thanksgiving pep rally on Nov. 22. The student-run group has formed a close community.

Anna Dong, Staff Writer

Clad in black with pops of red and blue, the members of the Cantico dance group beat powerfully to the rhythmic pulses of music at the annual Pep Rally. While this showcase is an essential part of Cantico, the group also performs at Progressions, the high school dance show, as well as during the halftime show at basketball games.

As a student-run dance group that focuses on hip-hop and contemporary styles of dance, Cantico ultimately allows dancers to form not only a close-knit team, but also to expand their influence and reach out to the larger community.

Cantico is open to all grades in the high school, and dancers must audition in September to be a part of the group, which currently has 22 members. Sophomore Maia Selhub, who joined Cantico this year, said she wanted an opportunity to join a meaningful team.

“I have a lot of friends in it already who were part of the group before, and I thought it would be fun because it’s a group that seems really close,” Selhub said.

Sophomore Suzie Stitt also auditioned and became part of Cantico this year, after spending her freshman year gaining more experience in the hip-hop realm of dance.

“After last year, I felt confident to join, and it also seemed like a fun group of people to be with,” Stitt said. “It seemed like a lot of fun performing, and I liked the dances, so I wanted to join.”

Performing Arts teachers Christien Polos and Mayra Hernandez are the advisers of the group, though it is mostly student-run. In fact, the graduating class selects a captain for the upcoming year, and senior Isobel Souza was named captain for this year, along with two co-captains, juniors Ling Ling Johnson Garland and Maddy Sopel.

A dedicated dancer outside of school, Souza strives to apply her level of commitment to the group mentality.

“I really take it seriously, and because I take dance outside of my life very seriously, I think that carries through when I’m the captain. It’s been nice to have that serious dance aspect brought into the group,” Souza said.

The group rehearses every Friday in either Dance Studio 1 or 2 and creates their own choreography.

Stitt, who has practiced various styles of dance, including ballet, tap, and jazz, enjoys the experience of performing as a group.

“My favorite part of being in Cantico is probably when we actually perform because the atmosphere around us is just so enthusiastic, and it’s a lot of fun to dance in front of people and have them cheering you on,” Stitt said.

Souza started dancing at a very young age, and she emphasizes the importance of dance and how it is something people of different backgrounds can share.

“You don’t need to be the same religion, you don’t even need words, so there’s not a barrier between how you talk to people,” Souza said.

As the captain, Souza was determined to not only include more dancers in Cantico, but also to take away the stigma regarding exclusivity in the admission process.

“I made it so that there’s contemporary dancers, hip-hop dancers and then people would be one or the other, or they’d be both. There are also people who do just basketball games,” Souza said. “I divided it in that way so we could really use everybody in the best way.”

For the first time in Cantico history, the group has male dancers, seniors Donovan Kirrane and Mathew Steele. Kirrane focuses on contemporary, while Steele does both hip-hop and contemporary.

“{Mathew}, because we haven’t started contemporary yet, is able to incorporate both masculine and feminine aspects and make it his own, which I think is a really good quality of a dancer,” Souza said. “Having him in it was a really good decision because he has good energy and is just a talented dancer.”

Although hip-hop and contemporary styles lie on different ends of the spectrum, contemporary dance can include a combination of other styles, according to Stitt.

“Contemporary can have ballet moves in it and also have more hip-hop, urban styles in it,” Stitt said. “You could definitely have both and mix it all together, which is fun about contemporary, but I wouldn’t say we put both of them in one dance.”

One of Souza’s main goals this year is to reach out to the Brookline community. Specifically, the group hopes to not only hold fundraisers, but also perform at Rosie’s Place in Boston, a homeless shelter for women and children, as well as create dance classes that younger kids can take.

Ultimately, Souza aims to add meaningful value to Cantico and to spread her love for dance to others.

“For me, dance is very important, and I don’t just see it as something that I like to do but something that I think can help other people,” Souza said. “I wanted to have this group have a purposeful meaning, something that was deeper than just dancing at school events.”