Faculty Highlight: Rachel Byers, Dance

Faculty Highlight: Rachel Byers, Dance

For more than 230 years, Friends School’s educational journey has equally emphasized the mastery of content with the mastery of essential skills required to succeed in the world - skills like critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and empathy - to name a few. Meet some of our outstanding faculty who guide our students through this journey each and every day.

Rachel Byers, Dance Instructor
B.F.A, University of the Arts
At Friends since 2021

Q. Why did you choose Friends and/or what do you love about teaching at Friends?
A. I didn’t choose Friends, Friends chose me. I’ve worked closely with the previous dance teacher, Mr. Torens since I was seven years old, and he has taught me so many things throughout the years. He took me under his wing and groomed me into the dancer, choreographer, and teacher that I am today. 

I had my first encounter with Friends back in 2020. Mr. Torens hired me as the guest choreographer for the dance ensemble. I worked with a small group of students, and I enjoyed the short time I spent with them. I couldn’t finish the dance because of the COVID pandemic. I was upset that I wasn’t able to finish choreographing the dance and wanted to come back when given the chance. 

I enjoy working with all ages at Friends. Because I teach across the divisions, I can create spaces for students to learn and perform over the school year. My first fall dance concert this year was The Jazzy Nutcracker. It was beautiful to see students shine in a different light. I invited Lower School students to join the Middle and Upper School students in the performance. It was fun to teach Ballet to the 2nd-5th graders, some of whom had never done it before. Seeing students of all ages on the stage together really warmed my heart and I can’t wait to do it again next year!

Q. What do you love about teaching your subject in particular?
Teaching is very rewarding. I love to see my students grow through dance and to watch their creative minds blossom as time goes on. When we start a new unit, I see the students' minds travel through various emotions as we work together to understand what their body is being introduced to. Things might not come naturally to the students, but as time goes on everyone starts to dance like an ensemble and the room becomes electrifying. 

Q. How do the dance curriculum and teaching at Friends School prepare students to be successful?
A. I think the dance curriculum helps students become flexible and open-minded. It prepares them for change. Dance sometimes makes you uncomfortable, but you must learn to lean into it and enjoy the time you spend in the studio. Students are taught different styles of dance by learning stationary/traveling sequences with direction changes, spatial awareness, and musicality/tempo changes throughout the combination. They hone performance aspects of focus, flow, clarity, contrast, nuance, and attention to detail. As they gain more knowledge of the art of dance, they can find their own creative voice and movement styles.

I always say to my students, “What subject goes hand in hand with dance?” and they will say, “Math.” In dance, you can count up to 2, 6, or 8. As you dance, you need to count to yourself to make sure you are on the right step at the right time. It also teaches them how to count music properly.

Q. Something fun about you - a motto or hobby, perhaps?
A. One of my hobbies is dancing with different companies around Baltimore. I dance with Stephanie Powell Danse Ensemble and Dance Baltimore. I’m performing in The City Nutcracker with Baltimore Dance Tech on December 17, and in February I’m performing at the Gordon Center.