Ma’ayanot students are putting on the Ritz for their own “High School Musical,” with a distinctively feminine twist: Their production, called Heartbeats, is a showcase of art, song, and dance exclusively by women for women.
The student-run production, which will take place on May 26, aims to raise money for Shalva, an organization in Israel that aids developmentally disabled children.
Heartbeats is a way for students to showcase their talents and present an arts festival to the community, said Rebecca Schenker, a senior at the Teaneck girls school who is co-chairing the event with her classmates Talia Pruzansky, Micolette Levine, and Nikki Sadek.
Nearly half of the school’s 230 students are involved in the show, either as performers or behind the scenes, Talia said, adding, “The whole school comes together to work on this. It’s a great unifying experience.”
The now annual production began as the brainchild of three students in 2008. That year, the Heartbeats fund-raiser collected $5,000 for Sharsheret, which helps Jewish women afflicted with cancer. Last year, the event raised $9,000 for Miklat, an organization in Israel that aids abused women. Organizers this year are optimistic that they will draw a larger crowd and raise even more money for their cause.
|From left are Ma’aynot students Micolette Levine, Talia Pruzansky, Rebecca Schenker, and Nikki Sadek. They will perform in a fund-raiser for an Israeli organization for developmentally disabled children.|
Rebecca said she was impressed when she recently visited one of Shalva’s facilities in Israel and hopes that the fund-raiser will help spread the word about the organization’s good work.
“The building is filled with many different colors, making it a very fun, upbeat place to be,” Rebecca said. “I watched the children in different age groups in their activities and they were having so much fun while learning. They have different therapy rooms with the newest technology, a swimming pool, and a music room. During their weekly sleepovers, they learn how to fold their clothing and make their lunches, basic life skills, and just overall have a great time while giving the parents a break and some time to focus on their other children.”
Ma’ayanot Principal Rookie Billet said she’s proud of her students for taking the initiative and launching a project that gives back to the community while allowing young women an outlet for their talents. “They perform musical numbers in Hebrew and English with carefully chosen soulful lyrics that emphasize support and connection,” she said. They choreograph their own original dances, she added, and use “technological media to highlight lyrics on a screen accompanied by photos and graphics. Heartbeats is an incredible opportunity for our students to take an original idea and fly with it. We are so proud of the program and we hope to sell out the Ma’ayanot ‘Playhouse.'”
Talia first became involved in Heartbeats two years ago, when organizers asked her to choreograph and perform a dance for the show. She has been involved in the project every year since. “It is so great,” she said. “I love dancing. There isn’t anything else in our school to showcase dancing. This is the one opportunity to really use your talents. We practice all the time. This is the first time I’ve been able to dance in front of a crowd. I don’t think I’ll have the chance again after this because it’s all for women, so I really appreciate this.
“This is a huge group effort,” she noted. “The whole school comes together for this. We all work really hard on this.”
Micolette oversees the musical numbers and also sings in the show. Nikki supervises the set and artistic aspects of the program.
Rebecca, who manages the business end of the event, said, “Although everyone has their specialty, we all put our individual talents together to create an incredible production while raising the most money that we can for Shalva.”
“The show is amazing,” she added. It gets better every year. It’s a great way for the girls to show their talents. This is our only school production that is from start to finish totally run and performed by students. It’s every girls’ chance to shine.”
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