Harrisites participate in and help lead NYC-based dance team Project Spark


Jialin Chen

Project Spark- a student-run dance team in New York City

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Project Spark is a New York City dance team that promotes dance culture to high school students across the five boroughs. The Classic spoke to several Harrisites involved in Project Spark about their involvement with the team and what made them passionate about dance.

Project Spark is a student-led team run by high school aged directors and managers. The group attends dance competitions in NYC or New Jersey, hosted by other dance teams. Within these competitions there are different divisions, and Project Spark often competes against other high schoolers, college students, and adults. One of the student leaders is THHS sophomore Zaedoen Gyephel, who spoke to The Classic about her role on the team. “Being a director is great,” Zaedoen said. “It helps me improve my choreographing abilities, and it’s amazing to have the opportunity to have my choreography displayed in front of the East Coast dance community. It is stressful at times, but it is really nice knowing that I have the support of an entire team.”
Zaedoen has been involved in dance from a young age. “I started dancing when I was five, and I have training in ballet and hip-hop,” Zaedoen said. “In middle school, I started to explore K-pop. Then in seventh grade, I joined an urban dance club within my school.”

Other students at THHS are on the team, and they each got involved in dance at different ages and in different ways. Senior Tijon Dembo said, “I didn’t start dancing until the summer between 10th and 11th grade.” Then within THHS he joined the dance department for SING in 11th grade and was chosen as leader for African American and Caribbean FON during his senior year. Another member of Project Spark, Senior Alex Cho, began dancing just before starting high school through a program called I Love Dance. He had joined the program alongside his brother as something to keep him busy, then when the school year began he got involved in school productions such as FON and S!NG. He said, “I also decided to join KFON and Hispanic FON in the second semester, and I developed a passion for dancing.”

Every member of the team got involved with Project Spark either through peers who were on the team or through a desire for growth and improvement. Zaedoen heard about it through her middle school’s urban dance club. She said, “the leader of this club was the one who introduced me to Spark. Then in ninth grade, I auditioned for Spark, and I’ve been in Spark ever since.” Additionally Tijon said, “I ended up joining Spark in 12th grade after one of my friends from S!NG posted their [Spark] performance. [My friend] has been on Spark since the summer before 12th grade for season 6 and 6.5.”

Spark provided more opportunities and outreach to a larger dance community than what was offered by THHS, the dancers told The Classic. Alex said, “[Before joining Spark], I did not partake in anything related to dance outside of school. I felt that the dance opportunities offered at school weren’t enough and that my skills were being stunted. That’s when I decided to join Project Spark…in hopes that I could surround myself with many other talented dancers and be challenged to be a better dancer.” Groups such as Spark allowed those with a great passion for dance to take it to the next level, be part of something bigger than themselves, and meet people from different backgrounds with similar interests.

Members said they felt that they were able to manage their schoolwork alongside Spark practices, which take place three times a week. Tijon said, “Spark is a big commitment because we have practice every Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. If you are not in the part that they are going over, you can do whatever you would like on the side, like homework. I do a lot of my homework and studying while I’m at Spark, whenever I’m not actively practicing.”

No matter the level of commitment, the team members said they would recommend joining the team to other Harrisites. Tijon said, “I think the friends and bonds I’ve built with my teammates while at practice, competitions, or even team dinners, is something I would recommend for every Harrisite to experience.”

Alex said he recommends joining to anyone who wants to “ either improve as a dancer and explore various new styles of dancing or make many new friends who are just as passionate about dancing as you are, or both.”

“[Spark] allowed me to make so many friends from different schools that share a passion for dancing like I do,” said Zaedoen.

A group of seniors at Stuyvesant High School established Project Spark 2018, according to an article in The Stuyvesant Spectator. One of those seniors, Peter Lee, had been a part of Stuy Legacy, a competitive open-choreography dance team that was open to Stuyvesant students only. However, Lee wanted there to be a dance team that was open to all high schoolers in New York, and so he created Project Spark.