By: Rebecca Fairbanks and Rory Lawson
Tucked away towards the back of Oakland Mills, nestled into the hallway between the auxiliary gym and the girls locker room, is the dance room. Equipped with floor to ceiling mirrors, sturdy hardwood floors, and air-conditioning (unlike the gym), the dance room is now hOMe to Oakland Mills’ new dance teacher, Ms. Rocco.
Ms. Rocco, a Hammond High School alumni, began her dance career around the age of 8 or 9 with studio classes at Aesthetics and Howard County Ballet. While at Hammond, she took part in the GT mentor program, solidifying her desire to be a part of dance. From there, Ms. Rocco went on to college, earning her bachelor of arts degree in dance, following it up with a masters degree for dance in education. When asked if she had ever wanted to teach dance at a studio or if the goal was always to teach at a school, Ms. Rocco replied that she never wanted to teach at a studio, “I just liked the idea of giving more students an opportunity to dance.”
Ms. Rocco started teaching dance as a student teacher at Crofton Middle School in Anne Arundel County. There, she taught a Dance for Athletes class where they engaged in activities such as cross-training. It was another way that Ms. Rocco was able to reach students who may have never thought about taking dance classes. Eventually, she found an opening here at Oakland Mills, saying, “…let’s move on back to Howard County!”
So far, the community at Oakland Mills has been very welcoming to Ms. Rocco as she stated she, “…definitely felt the OM community feel from day one.” Although she doesn’t feel like she has met a lot of people yet, besides the performing arts community, she is looking forward to getting to know more people. “Everyone that I’ve met has been supportive and I’m looking forward to be able to be here longer and really feel more of the community sense,” she said.
Ms. Rocco, of course, does have a life outside of dance. She lives in Annapolis near the water with her two dogs, both beagle mixes. She loves the beach and doing outdoor activities, such as hiking different trails. One of Ms. Rocco’s dogs is a certified therapy dog named Lacy, and she enjoys taking her to different places to work with children with disabilities: “I used to take her to different schools, specifically the Cedar Lane school.” The students at these schools get the opportunity to walk and pet Lacy, providing the students therapy and comfort. This serves as an additional example of how Ms. Rocco supports her community.
Moving forward, Ms. Rocco is excited for live performances. When it comes to prepping for live recitals, she prefers to choreograph modern dance and takes inspiration not just from the music, but also pieces of text or speech that resonate with her. One of Ms. Rocco’s favorite live performances outside of school is Alvin Ailey’s Modern Dance Company.
In addition to live performances, she is also looking to start a National Honor Society for the Dance Arts, which she is hoping to organize some outreach activities through. Masterclasses for the middle school or open studio days are yet another community focused activity Ms. Rocco is hoping to start during her time here.
One piece of advice Ms. Rocco would give to all of her students is: “Don’t be afraid to take risks… not everything is going to come natural and not everything is going to feel easy, but you have to step outside of that comfort zone and take risks in order to be successful. We’re not looking to always be perfect, we are looking to try and make progress along the way, so we won’t make progress if we don’t take risks and try.”