Two summers ago, Gulliver Prep senior Juliana Yaniz and her twin sister Alexandra set up a summer dance program in Great Harbor Cay in the Bahamas.
“My sister and I always spend about a month in the Bahamas,” she says. “We are passionate about dance.”
This past summer, they did it again. For four weeks, they taught the children different dance styles – ballet, hip hop and jazz.
“We would teach two to three times a week for an hour or an hour-and-a-half,” she says. “At the end of the program they performed at one of their community festivals.”
They contacted the principal of the island school and were given the go ahead to create the program.
“They had summer school prior,” she says. “When the summer school ended, it took the place of summer school. It was in the morning, instead of going to the summer program they would go to us.”
At the beginning, she says the girls were shy and intimidated by them.
“As they went along, and got more comfortable with dancing, they gained more confidence and they became more outgoing with us,” she says.
Each summer they had a different group of girls. Only one girl participated both summers.
While Yaniz has been in dance most of her life and is co-captain of the Gulliver dance team, she’s never taught before.
Teaching the girls – whose ages ranged from 5 to 11 – she learned to adjust her way of teaching after reviewing what worked and what didn’t work after the first year. She says she realized the first summer the combinations she taught were too fast because they were so new to dancing. The second summer, she made the combinations simpler.
Yaniz and her sister plan to conduct the program again next summer before going off to college.
“That was my favorite part of the summer. I wrote my college essay on it,” she says. “I made an impact on their lives. They changed me and I changed them. I learned how to teach dance in a way to people who had never performed it before.”
Yaniz’s college application went to Duke when she applied for early decision. She expects to know the status of her application Dec. 15.
There she’s interesting majoring in dance and another academic major. She’s leaning toward math, economics or chemistry.
What she’s really like to do is work for a contemporary dance company and dance on Broadway.
“I want to have dance in my life whether I’m teaching it or in a performance company,” she says.
At the same time, she wants to be able to work in the STEM field.
“I haven’t worked out the details but I’d like to do both,” she says.
Yaniz is not only co-captain of the dance team, she’s also vice president of the Dance Club. She’s a member of the National Honor Society, the Spanish Honor Society, the Dance Honor Society, Mu Alpha Theta, and the history honor society, Ro Kappa. She’s co-president of Open Ears Open Arms, a community service club. The club sponsors different collection drives, including ones for Thanksgiving and another one for school supplies.
She participates in dance competitions both with the school dance team and with the Patricia Penenori Dance Center.
Last June the dance team from Patricia Penenori Dance Center won the National Championships for 13 and over at the On-Stage America competition in Orlando. She and her sister were the Duet National Champions at the same event and she received second place for a solo.
Linda Rodriguez Bernfeld