LEWIS CENTER, Ohio (WKBN) – At Olentangy High School in Lewis Center, a rhythm is being followed. Calling out to a group of around 35 students, choir teacher Tim Smith keeps time.
“Five, six, seven, eight,” called out Smith as the students in front of him tore into choreography, their bodies moving with grace and precision only achieved after hundreds if not thousands of repetitions.
Their arms cut through the air; light on their feet, footwork moves them across the floor; heads snap back to front as they spot a turn, all in time with the beat.
Through it all, they must precisely control their bodies to move as a single unit in some cases and as a small subgroup in others, all based on the choreography.
Understanding what muscles to engage and how to engage them to accomplish the dancing alone is physically demanding, according to seniors Sarah Reese and Gabriel Woerner. The pair are two of the dance captains for the Keynotes, the show choir at Olentangy High School.
According to Reese and Woerner, every rehearsal has a workout aspect to it. Not only must they stretch out before starting, but they also go through cardio and core workouts regularly; and it’s a good thing they do, according to Smith, because without it they wouldn’t be able to perform.
“It’s intense physical activity for 20-25 minutes straight,” Smith said.
As freshmen join the show choir, some are surprised by the amount of fitness needed to perform at the high-level competition the Keynotes often find themselves in.
Smith says it can take two to three months for new members to get up to speed physically before they are able to handle a single performance, from a stamina perspective.
”Since taking over in 2013, Keynotes has competed across the Midwest and east coast including Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Virginia, West Virginia and Massachusetts,” Smith said. “In the last five years, we have consistently made finals and received numerous Divisional Grand Champion awards, as well as multiple caption awards for ‘Best Vocals,’ ‘Best Choreography’ and ‘Best Show Design.'”
This is just one of the reasons members of the Keynotes are hoping Olentangy Local School District approves show choir as an acceptable activity to earn a physical education waiver.
Districts across the state have the opportunity to accept show choir as an alternative after lawmakers agreed to add it to the list of those eligible with district approval.
Other activities that already qualify for a waiver are interscholastic athletics, marching band, cheerleading and JROTC.
Each has its own additional requirements. For instance, two years of participation in JROTC is required.
The waiver replaces a 1/2 credit requirement for physical education, which is earned for 120 hours of course instruction.
In 2015, the State Board of Education adopted these Ohio Physical Education Standards:
- Standard 1: A physically literate individual demonstrates competency in a variety of motor skills and movement patterns.
- Standard 2: A physically literate individual applies knowledge of concepts, principles, strategies and tactics related to movement and performance.
- Standard 3: A physically literate individual demonstrates the knowledge and skills to achieve and maintain a health-enhancing level of physical activity and fitness.
- Standard 4: A physically literate individual exhibits responsible, personal and social behavior that respects self and others.
- Standard 5: A physically literate individual recognizes the value of physical activity for health, enjoyment, challenge, self-expression and/or social interaction.
When it comes to if the Keynotes hit all those standards, Smith says, “The fundamentals we build in here are fundamentals that you would use every day if you were doing physical activity. The stretching that we do, the understanding how you’re engaging the muscles, engaging them correctly, not pushing them past what they’re able to do. There is so many fundamental physical activity things that we do in here that are absolutely lifelong techniques that they would continue to use throughout their lives.”
On top of that, the challenge of the choreography and fitness level can be steep, according to Smith. Plus, the environment is one where students feel safe and accepted, according to Woerner.
The Keynotes are preparing for competition season coming up later this fall.
The Olentangy School Board could take the matter of accepting show choir as early as November.
If it is accepted, current sophomores may be the first students eligible for the credit due to a requirement that students participate for two full years, and the school year has already begun.
Districts are not allowed to apply for retroactive credit, according to the Ohio Department of Education’s website.