Meet Hansberry College Prep’s Competitive Dance Team

In the background of this graphic, there are two images in a collage. On the left hand side, there is a photo of a group of Black girls in a line with their heads down in bright shiny pink costumes, as they get ready for their dance performance. The photo on the right side shows a young Black girl in a tan jumpsuit, lunging and raising her hand to the sky. Standing behind her is a young Black boy in a tan shirt and black pants. He is crossing his arm over her upraised one. They are in the middle of a dance performance as part of Hansberry College Prep's dance team: the Bengal Dance Collective. On top of the images, there is a dark blue transparent layer. On top of that and in the bottom left corner, there is blue text on a yellow box that reads "Meet Hansberry's Competitive Dance Team". In the bottom right corner is the Noble Schools logo -- a public charter school network in Chicago, IL.
Published On: June 7th, 2023Categories: 2023, Campus Life, Hansberry College Prep, Staff, Students

This is part of a series of blogs from Noble campus representatives to give a deeper look at campus life.

The Bengal Dance Collective (BDC) has always been one of the staples at Hansberry College Prep since the school was founded in 2012. Recently, the team has won multiple Noble League championships. They were also the first Noble Schools’ dance team to make it to a statewide dance championship. However, BDC is more than just a talented dance team – it’s a haven to foster skills in both dance and life.

Ms. Lemon, dance instructor, is standing and facing towards the audience. She is wearing her hair braided to a puffy ponytail. She is wearing a orange-red floral patterned dress suit with blue-violet leaves. She is holding a microphone with her right hand.

Ms Lemon – Dance Instructor – Performance at the Beverly Arts Center

Ms. Lemon speaking at the Beverly Arts Center.

The team’s dance coaches, Chelsea Lemon and Donni Boston, have led BDC on a 3-year winning streak at the Noble League Dance Competition. Lemon and Boston were also named Dance Coaches of the Year for those three years.

“Dance is extremely important to me. My first piece of professional training was in a space with people of color. That’s when I realized that our kids need this – I want to give that back,” Lemon said.

Lemon attended Southern Illinois University on a dance scholarship. She says dance helped her focus in school. She’s given a lot of that same passion and mindset to the members of BDC. Brendon, a senior and one of Noble’s Athletes of the Year, says BDC taught him how to keep going.

“When dancing, you can’t show when you have made a mistake – you must keep going. I have taken that with me to other areas of my life. I just know how to keep myself together, even in times when I make mistakes,” Brendon said.

Two dancers from the Bengal Dance Collective. The dancer on the left is wearing a orange-yellow circular designed skirt with a small black t-shirt. She is smiling as her hands wave up to the sky, a part of the dance routine. The dancer on the right, wearing the same dance uniform. She has her arms up in the air and follows the dance routine. The background displays an yellow colored aura surrounding the two dancers. The other color transitioned into an orange color.

Performance at the Beverly Arts Center

Dancers perform an African piece performance.

Four dancers are visible. The dancers are all wearing the yellow-orange circular patterned skirts. The dancers are all doing their dance moves as part of the routine. The background transitions into a black to orange shade.

African Piece Performance at Beverly Arts Center

Continuation of the African piece performance.

On top of those life skills, Lemon and Boston teach a vast array of dance styles – jazz, modern, African, hip hop, contemporary, and more. Lemon particularly loves to teach jazz because of its roots in Black culture.

“What a lot of people may not know is that jazz is rooted in the African Diaspora. Jazz comes from West African movement and techniques,” Lemon said, “Songs like ‘Lost in the World’ by Kanye West are used in BDC jazz choreography. When we teach it to kids, we teach them syncopation and rhythms – it clicks without them even knowing. It’s my favorite ‘AH HA!’ moment to see in my students.”

While there is tons of exploration and time to learn in BDC, being on the team is no small commitment. To be a part of BDC, Lemon says, you need to be disciplined to be ready to compete and grow both personally and professionally.

Two dancers are performing. The dancer on the left is wearing a white jumper dress. She is lifting her right arm up as part of the dance routine. The dancer to the right is wearing a white button up shirt with black pants. He is lifting his right hand up as he follows her direction of the performance. They are both barefoot.

Performance at the Beverly Arts Center (1)

Dancers perform their dance routine at the Beverly Arts Center.

“We can’t look the same in December as we did in August,” Lemon said, “Some (students) come in and think, ‘Oh, I’m just going to come in and move around,’ but then they realize this lady has them working out and training.”

Members of BDC are thriving and growing in their confidence, even with the high expectations and intensity of training.

“Last year, I was nervous about joining BDC, but then I did it and I just clicked with it,” Brendon said. He said this taught him to keep trying new things.

“Don’t let fear take over your ability to try something new because you never know what you are going to fall in love with if you really try,” He added.

Three dancers are visible. The dancers are wearing a white, sheer-like dress, They are laying on the ground with their heads lowering to their body. They have their arms stretched out to touch their legs. The background is a gradient of purple and light purple.

Performance at the Beverly Arts Center (3)

Performers in the middle of their routine.

Three dancers are visible. Two of them are holding the third dancer as she moves forward. The dancers are wearing a gradient purple-white like dress. They have their hair pulled into a bun.

Performance at the Beverly Arts Center (2)

Dancers performing their routine.

When asked what’s next for BDC, Lemon said: “We want State, they (the students) want it. They’re hungry.”

BDC placed 6th in Illinois Dream Team Association state championship in the Jazz category this past year. We know they are going back for victory because HCP believes that our students are unstoppable. We see that in the consistency of love and high standards established in BDC. We thank the coaches for their dedication to seeing our students as the best version of themselves. We applaud BDC students in the past, now, and those to come.

The dancers are all lined up in their dance uniform. They are all wearing a white ballet-like dresses. Some are clapping, while others are staring at the audience.

End of the Show- Performance at the Beverly Arts Center

The dancers bow at the end of the show.

The late Alvin Ailey said it best: “To provide a place of beauty and excitement, a place for other choreographers to experiment. To provide a place where people can come and feel like they can add themselves and then reap the benefits of what they put in.”

That’s what the Bengal Dance Collective is.

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