By Vern Hee
It is “All that Jazz” time, for dancer and senior high school student, Kelly Raberge. She will soon be graduating from high school and leaving town to pursue her dream to be a professional dancer.
Raberge said she never felt comfortable at any school, but is most comfortable on the dance floor.
“I started home-schooling and then I went back to regular school in sixth grade,” said Raberge. “I told my family middle school was not for me. I didn’t like the drama. The drama at school took my focus away from school.”
Raberge decided for a change in high school. Instead of attending Pahrump Valley High School, she decided to attend Pathways, the alternative education available to students in the Nye County School District.
The young dancer said she had been taking dance lessons in Pahrump since she attended grade school. She started off with ballet and loved it.
Tap and jazz soon followed. She now has 12 years of dancing under her belt.
“My favorite discipline is ballet. I have been doing it since I was 6 years old. If you take ballet you will know what to do in jazz and tap. Ballet is the foundation of all dance,” she said.
Her dancing keeps her busy during the week. She trains for two days a week in Las Vegas. In addition to her training, Raberge teaches seven classes at Donna’s School of Dance. She felt she could not go to a regular school with such demands.
The district recognizes that regular high school is not for everyone. According to them, roughly 130 students attend the alternative school, where the students interact with a computer and take all their classes online. In Pathways, it’s the student’s responsibility to motivate themselves to complete the course work, not the teacher. The school is self-paced. Pathways provides teachers, who are there at the school to help the students.
Al Chenevert is the teacher at Pathways the dancer turns to when things get rough.
“Kelly is a wonderful student. She has been going here for three years plus. She may not always understand something, but she works hard at something. I am thinking that is more important in the long run than any natural ability. She has the grit to stay with it, the willingness to hang with classes that are not always the easiest for her, the math classes and so forth. She has had some disappointments in her life, I know she has always shown up and she works hard. She has goals in mind. That makes her pretty admirable in my mind.”
Raberge said her high school experience has not been lessened while attending Pathways. She has been allowed to attend prom and was a cheerleader in ninth grade. Last year she attended choral music courses at the high school and auditioned for the select choir and made it.
Doug Steward, The Pathways administrator, said Pathways students can participate in any public school courses or activities.
“Pathways students take a full load and can also take courses at the high school said Steward. “Students participate in athletics, too. Athletes must meet the eligibility requirements set by the school district. Our school has kids taking classes in chorus, band and even ROTC. Kids get every opportunity to do the activities the other kids do. That is one of the bright spots of our program. We offer kids an alternative education setting, but they don’t lose the privileges of being a student in Nye County School District,” said Steward.
Raberge has stuck with the school and her goal of being a dancer has pushed her to finish. She believes the alternative school fits her dance schedule.
The school allows her to attend dance school in Las Vegas, where she competes with Diamond Dance Studios, a top-notch dance school. It dictates the young dancer to be in Vegas at least twice a week when competing. The school has five competitions throughout the year, and demands Raberge to dance every day.
“I feel it’s worked out fine. In ninth grade I slacked off in school. I think I didn’t care for school. I didn’t know the reason I should go. I thought it was stupid and really didn’t want to go. When 10th grade came around, I realized you really need an education if you want to get a job. This is when I started to get caught up again. I am a senior and only need three more credits to graduate.”
The teen dancer said her best teacher, without a doubt, has been Christy Heaton with Artistic Dance Studios, a Pahrump studio, which has closed.
It was at Artistic, where she met Tina Day, owner and artistic director of Diamond Dance Studios in Las Vegas. Day used to teach at Artistic.
Day is a professional dancer, who specialized in tap and has been dancing for over 36 years. Her dance studio has produced many dancers currently working in the profession. Diamond Dance is in their third year and is rapidly making a name for the studio.
“Kelly is at the highest level of dance at my studio. She is a very good dancer. She is on my competition team of 25 dancers. She had to audition for the team. She helped win the Al Gilbert tap award, a top dance award in Las Vegas.
“Kelly had to take a lot of ballet. The kids have to dance every day and that is what they have to do to be successful. She has a lot of talent and stage presence to become a professional dancer,” said Day.
Becoming a professional dancer is why Raberge dances. After she graduates, college really is not tops on her list.
“I will not be going to college right away. I want a break. I want to go to more dance school. If I was to go to college I would major in business, so I could run a dance studio,” she said.