Willkommen! Bienvenue! Welcome!

Class of 2009's Cabaret
Class of 2009’s Cabaret

Section A: Right Hand Wave x2
Section B: Right Hand Wave x2
Section C: Right Hand Wave x4

Section A: Right Hand Shake x2
Section B: Right Hand Shake x2
Section C: Right Hand Shake x4

All: March (high knees and swinging arms), Right Foot First
All: Arms out wide

All: Right Hand out wide
All: Left Hand out wide,
All: Both Hands out wide + emphasis

All I have to do is read these lines of choreography instruction and immediately the song begins in my head: “Willkommen! Bienvenue! Welcome!” It usually sticks there for a few hours.

That’s what happens when you’ve been a Dana Hall School ninth grade Class Dean (or class advisor, as it used to be called). I first learned the choreography to the Cabaret traditional songs in the winter of 2003 alongside the Class of 2006. During those rehearsals, I also learned every word — and every accompanying move — to “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” one of their chosen class songs. To this day, when I hear that song on the radio I lift my arms with the “mountains high,” drop them down to the “valleys low,” and shimmy them out to the sides with the “rivers wide.”

Cabaret is my absolute favorite Dana Hall tradition. Yes, I have a soft spot for ninth graders and the ebbs and flows and self discovery that accompany their transition to high school, and this tradition captures this in one spectacular event. Cabaret itself is a variety show featuring acts by ninth-grade students. The show includes every member of the class, whether they are performing on stage, commanding the light and sound boards, overseeing the backstage, opening the curtains, or emceeing the show. And every member of the class is on stage to perform (yes, sing AND dance to) the class songs, which include two traditional songs that every class performs (“Willkommen” and “Cabaret”) and two songs the classes choose as their own.

I looked back at the program to my first ever Cabaret with the Class of 2006 and I was immediately reminded of the personalities of the class. There were not one or two Broadway or popular movie songs performed… there were six. The Jets faced off, the Time Warp went wild, and there was a fabulous (if not a little risque) nod to Chicago. There were also hilarious skits, including an SNL Weekend Update and a light-hearted “throwback” to a kid’s show. They also riffed on a new reality TV show, The Bachelor, and showed off some awesome step dancing moves. I learned about the KPop (Korean Pop) music genre, and heard a popular Mexican tune for the first time. I loved every second of it.

The best part of the show, though, was watching ninth graders support each other. The class sat on the floor directly in front of the stage and gazed up at their classmates performing. They laughed on cue, waved their hands along to the music, and cheered (okay, screamed) for every person who performed. Every. Person. Not every student nailed her performance, some even stumbled through, but when they were done, they all heard their names shouted along with screams of encouragement and adulation.

This happens every year. And it is why Cabaret is my favorite.

Cabaret is an opportunity for ninth graders to show off their individual personalities and talents, and it is a wonderful way for the community to see them in a different light. Over the years I’ve been awestruck by rock bands, dancers, choreographers, and even a girl who solved a Rubik’s Cube as she sang. But what is most memorable is the sisterhood I see forming before my eyes. I can’t help but think that it is the magic of Dana Hall’s all-girls setting that encourages these ninth graders to put themselves out there. There is something special and confidence-inspiring about feeling the love and support of your classmates. And though the girls may not realize it at that moment, I believe it is why this tradition brings the class so close together.

At this year’s Cabaret, there was a mash-up of Mexican music, an SNL skit re-enactment, a “throwback” to Dora the Explorer, a Korean pop song (sung, not danced), and at least one Broadway/movie song… but despite the parallels to 2003, the show was SO Class of 2022.

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About Kristin Ryan

Kristin Ryan is the Dean of Students at Dana Hall. She joined the School in 2000. She is also the founder and director of the Girls Summer Leadership Program.

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