This Black History Month, Let’s Celebrate Joy

Archive, School Events, School Year 2021-22

By: Quinn Bryant

The Black History Month showcase has returned to an in-person format after it went virtual for its 2021 showcase. This year it is all about positivity.  

The Black History Month Showcase is one of BSA’s biggest events of the school year, alongside Expressions and The Nutcracker. For the showcase, members of the Black community here at BSA came together to celebrate Black excellence and culture for the entire school. 

“Everyone at school should have moments where they feel celebrated; this showcase is a really big part of that,” says Senior Black History Month Dance Director, Jaylah Symonette. 

In November, the Black History Month Showcase leadership team – Anu Jinadu, Joseph Hatchett, Jaylah Symonette, Davon Collier, and Ebban Dorsey, along with advisors Ayanna Freelon and Christian Whitley – held auditions where students presented their ideas based on the decided theme, Black Joy in Baltimore.

Senior Black History Month Music Director, Ebban Dorsey, described that the “additions are completely open to creativity and collaboration, as long as they are on the theme.”

As described by Senior Black History Month Theater Director Davon Collier, this showcase is not just a talent show like what most schools do. “It’s not just an opportunity to say, oh hey, I can sing, I can dance, let me go and perform on stage because I’m Black, but actually finding the roots of Black history throughout.” 

What also makes this showcase unique from other schools is the “amount of talent here at BSA”, says Dorsey. 

This year’s theme is Black Joy in Baltimore. The decision behind the theme, Collier says, is that “Baltimore is seen as this really bad place, but we wanted to showcase the joy and beauty that is within Baltimore.” 

Symonette added that “Baltimore is a creative city. A lot of the talks surrounding Black history month always have to do with the atrocities that the Black community has faced, which totally makes sense. That stuff definitely needs to be talked about, but it’s nice to focus on the joy.”  

Based on the theme, these three members of the leadership team said that the student body should “expect greatness. A lot of joy, a lot of energy, a lot of fun, and expect a lot more

Baltimore; we have Baltimore club music, legends, and things that make Baltimore what it is in a positive sense.” 

Collier is excited to show his piece from The Wiz, a 1978 musical.“You may be wondering where The Wiz comes into play in Baltimore, but The Wiz debuted at Arena Players, which is right up the street from BSA.” 

Symonette is very proud of Atiya Prettyman’s majorette piece and Iyona Kane’s Baltimore inspired club piece. 

However, like everything in our modern world, the pandemic has changed things. Symonette expressed that they lost some performances to do people’s comfortability with the ongoing pandemic.

There was also “not a lot of available space, so we are trying to roll with the punches,” says Collier. Like everyone, the leadership team is just “hoping for the best with the pandemic,” says Collier.  

When asked “what does this showcase mean to you personality?”, Collier, Symonette, and Dorcey reflected on the significance of the show. 

Collier expressed, “this showcase hits home for me. Being Black in Baltimore, hearing the ice cream truck down the street, Black love, it just really hits home for me”.

“I wasn’t interested in seeing any more Black pain projects. I feel like a lot of the representation we get as Back people is about racism and police brutality, and we need to talk about that stuff too, but it’s nice to see my Black friends and peers involved in something that doesn’t have to do with that. We just get to celebrate ourselves,” says Symonette.  

Dorcey reflected on her first time seeing the show. “I was still in middle school, but my older brother was here at BSA, and seeing it was one of the best experiences of my life personally. To see all of these Black students be creative and express themselves, talking about important issues in front of the whole school, gave me a lot of hope for being a part of BSA because I wanted to do that too.”

This year’s performance will be held on Friday, February 11th. Freshman and Sophomores will see the performance during BSA Crew and Junior and Seniors will see it during 4th period. The evening show, which is open to the public, will be at 6:00 pm. 

After the performances on the 11th, Collier hopes that “the student body leaves with a sense of joy and amazement.” Symonette wishes that ‘the young Black artists in the audience feel like themselves and that their art deserves to be celebrated. That they leave saying, ‘I am worth celebrating, my art is worth celebrating, this community is worth celebrating.’”  

To contact this writer, email Muse Newspaper at

The Nutcracker: A Reimagined Classic Celebrates Baltimore

Archive, School Events, School Year 2021-22

By: Quinn Bryant and Frances Philippe-Auguste

After the events of the quarantine lockdown, The Nutcracker returns completely from scratch. The new take on the traditional ballet highlights the magic within our own community. The Dance and Stage Design and Production departments come together to bring this wonderful world to our stage.   

“The Nutcracker”, a familiar fixture in the Baltimore School for the Arts’ calendar, is a long-lasting tradition for the holiday season throughout the dance community. It is a fanciful story, one that offers ample opportunity for interpretation, which is why BSA has had three versions of “The Nutcracker” done throughout many years.

In previous years, “The Nutcracker” has been choreographed and interpreted by Sylvester Campbell, Lisa De Ribere, and Barry Huston. This year the newest version of the “The Nutcracker” production was created by Laura Halm Hamilton and Amy Hall Garner. This version, set in Baltimore City, is about celebrating where you are, not where you wish you were.

A New Production: 

“Over the years, I have tried to figure out what kind of Nutcracker I would be proud of and confident in producing,” said Dance Department Head Laura Halm Hamilton. Hamilton has created that very production by starting everything from scratch and making some significant changes. This includes all-new choreography, removed stereotypes in the iconic second act, and the addition of gender-neutral representation. 

This new production is the opposite of the Berry Huston version, the last version of the production done at BSA. “I felt as though it was in some way a disservice to the community as a whole because it was a classical production so heavily weighted on the importance and respect of one technique over everything else. I didn’t think it was a good representation of the dance world our graduates would be going into,” said Hamilton. 

This new version, instead, celebrates the community; “Instead of being in a world that Clara aspires to get and escape to, the second act depicts Aunt Dee bringing to life the neighborhood in which our protagonist lives, Baltimore City. Showing her that the magic exists within her city and her neighborhood instead of, you can only find beauty and fantasy if you travel somewhere else.” said Hamilton. 

Not only is the setting different in this version, so is the choreography. Amy Hall Garner is an internationally known choreographer who has been commissioned by schools such as The Juilliard School, Barnard College, and the Columbia Ballet Collaborative, to name a few. She coached Beyoncé for her Mrs. Carter world tour and has many more theatrical choreography credits. Hamilton said, “We are really, really lucky that we can even get her here because she is creating works for some of the best companies in the country.”

Together, Garner and Hamilton were able to take the choreography for “The Nutcracker” and redefine it into something different. As said by Junior Dancer Cassidy Reigel, “unlike the traditional Nutcracker that is all on pointe, our version has more modern and contemporary elements.” With modernized choreography, Hamilton and Garner were also able to create sections to celebrate dancers’ individual and collective strengths.


The rehearsals for “The Nutcracker” are intense and require a large time commitment. “You start day one and you don’t stop until December 18th,” said Hamilton. Senior Dancer Keon Wagstaff shared that dancers have rehearsal every day after school and on Saturdays.

“In the beginning, rehearsal was very spaced out with small specific groups to allow everyone to learn their part, but as we get closer to opening and everyone gets more comfortable with their role, rehearsals become compact and put together.”

During rehearsal dancers are driven and strive for perfection. There are multiple casts in each rehearsal, and the rehearsal in itself, according to Junior Dancer Kyleigh Johnson, is never really set in stone. But no dancer is left on the sideline relaxing; dancers are always practicing while simultaneously correcting themselves in the mirrors.

“We are expected to know and be ready to do the corrections she already gave, so she doesn’t repeat them. We must always be attentive,” said Reigel.

It doesn’t matter how much they are sweating or how late it may be, these dancers will repeat the move five more times to get it right because it is expected of them. 

Stage Design and Production 

A major part of the production of “The Nutcracker” that may be overlooked is the work of the stage design and production students. Stage production is in charge of all the visual aspects of the ballet. Like the dancers, they have a short amount of time to prepare for the show.

With this new approach of “The Nutcracker”, they have a lot of work that they have to get done. Not only do they have to adapt for the reimagined production, they also have to adjust after not being in school due to quarantine. This year’s students and teachers began meeting on Zoom back in April in preparation for this year’s production.

One of the main elements of “The Nutcracker” besides the dancing are the costumes. This year all of the dancers in the dance department are going to be in the production. This adds more work to the stage production students because they  will need to make more costumes.

Senior SDP member, Ella Voos, is the creative mind behind the costume for Aunt Dee, a new strong female lead for “The Nutcracker”. The costume is made completely from scratch but is based on the original Uncle Drosselmeyer’s costume. Aunt Dee has a cape vest that serves the same purpose as the Uncle Drosselmeyer cape, but has some newer twists.

Senior SDP member, Silvana Gerardo, worked on the lemon sticks costumes for the TWIGS dancers; “it’s the cutest thing I’ve ever seen.” – Hamilton. There was a lot of trial and error for this costume. She needed to find the correct contrast for the red and yellow colors and make sure the compositions and the proportions worked together.  

Senior SDP member, Tracey Molina, is behind the innovative idea for the snow drape costumes. She wanted them to be flowy and have the technical appearance of snow, the best material that gave her those results were trash bags. Contrary to popular belief the costumes will not resemble trash bags.

“The costumes will not look like trash bags, they will be reimagined and very different”, said Molina.

Another major aspect of “The Nutcracker” is the lighting. Junior SDP member, Samuel Greco, explained everything that has to be done, especially coming back from quarantine. They have to first make sure that all the lights are working properly. This means that they have to test each individual light and if it is not working they have to find the source. Most of the issues come from the equipment being unplugged because no one was in the building due to Covid.

This year SDP is getting the help of BSA alumnus Bernard Johnson, who currently is the producing director for Single Carrot Theatre here in Baltimore. To help with the Baltimore setting, the brick wall  behind the white screen of the stage is being used as a backdrop. This wall is to be lighted, so Johnson came up with the idea of installing a new row of lights on the floor in front of the wall. 

SDP works very hard to help make sure that their fellow classmates in the dance department look their best for their audiences, whether it’s costumes or lighting. “The Nutcracker” production is a partnership between these two departments. Each year the two bring together a production that our community and city can gravitate toward.

As Hamilton says so passionately, “the people on the stage look like the people in the audience. There’s representation, there is aspiration, There’s oh my goodness those people look like me, I can do it. And that is the most important aspect of bringing arts to young people.” 

To contact these writers, email Muse Newspaper at

Green Team Works Toward Larger Initiatives

Archive, School Events, School Year 2021-22

By: Audrey Weiss

On October 23, BSA community members met for the first of the bi-annual clean-up days held at Herring Run. The event, co-hosted by the BSA Green Team and the Black Student Union (BSU), allowed BSA to join the efforts of the Friends of Herring Run– an area in desperate need of cleaning.

On October 23, BSA community members met for the first of the bi-annual clean-up days held at Herring Run. The event, co-hosted by the BSA Green Team and the Black Student Union (BSU), allowed BSA to join the efforts of the Friends of Herring Run– an area in desperate need of cleaning.

Volunteers were met with loads of trash that had either been stuck in the terrain after drifting down the run or had been thrown down from the bridge and roads above. After two hours, more than 40 bags of trash and several large irregular objects had been removed from the natural area.

These clean up days are only one of the projects that the BSA Green Team currently has underway, as the group works for a greater initiative.

The Green Team is currently working on its application for Green School certification with the MAEOE (Maryland Association of Environmental Outdoor Education).

“The process will take until May, when we submit our application and website demonstrating all of our work at BSA”, said Green Team Advisor Anne Laro. “Not only are students involved in the process, but the BSA teachers and staff also.”

The Green School application process requires a school to demonstrate sustainable practices, community partnerships, and curriculum/school-wide behavioral changes. 

As the Green Team continues to work on its submission, they will continue to engage with BSA community members to make sure all boxes on the application are checked. In the past month, the team has produced and distributed home-made cleaning products and harvested the food that was gardened in the courtyard in an effort to complete their application.

As far as the next sequence of action for the Green Team, staff and teachers are to receive training and professional development on environmental issues; students will also have  opportunities to engage in sustainable-based learning during the newly scheduled advisory on Fridays.

“We will be notified of our certification status by May”, Anne Laro concluded, “and if we are awarded the certification, our team will attend a ceremony at Sandy Point State Park.”

The students of BSA have demonstrated, most recently through a walkout on October 22, that they want to take action when it comes to climate change and related issues, reflecting the pattern of youth around the world taking a stand against the lack of effort put in by major governments.

“Young people are not only victims of climate change. They are also valuable contributors to climate action”, the United Nations states, “Whether through education, science or technology, young people are scaling up their efforts and using their skills to accelerate climate action.”

BSA’s pursuit of a Green School certification may be a small step, but it is a step forward to working for a more sustainable and climate-friendly future within the school and the surrounding community.

To contact this writer, email Muse Newspaper at