Bridge Street School staff stages surprise for students
Beth Choquette, Bridge Street School principal, dances with her students after the entire faculty surprised the students with a "flash mob" sing and dance number during their normal morning assembly Thursday.
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Bridge Street school 1st grade teacher Patti Dubiel is hugged and congratulated by her class after the entire faculty surprised the students with a "flash mob" sing and dance number during their normal morning assembly Thursday. Purchase photo reprints »
NORTHAMPTON — The weekly all-school assembly Thursday in the Bridge Street School gym was going along as always. There were a few more parents in the crowd than usual and at least one video camera, but nobody paid it any mind.
Principal Beth Choquette had the floor and was talking to students about the upcoming holiday break, encouraging them to “take time to think about people who are struggling.”
She also thanked them for making her first six months on the job so enjoyable.
“When I’m on vacation, I will miss you,” Choquette told the youngsters seated all around her, “because you guys are just dynamite.”
As soon as she spoke the word, the room went crazy.
Teachers and other school staff dressed in brightly colored T-shirts swarmed to the front and began dancing to the strains of Taio Cruz’s party song, “Dynamite.”
Arms rose in the air, shoulders (and other body parts) did some shaking. When a few of the braver performers moved to the front for some solo moves, the gym erupted in cheers and applause.
Thursday’s surprise flashmob at Bridge Street had been in the works for more than a month. But coming as it did, just six days after an elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn. shocked and saddened the nation, participants said the local school celebration was especially welcome.
“This has been a difficult week to be an elementary school educator,” said Bridge Street’s school psychologist Kathy Casale, who was one of the dancers. “The timing of this couldn’t have been better for our staff.”
Casale said Choquette suggested the flashmob in one of her first staff meetings after school began in September. As inspiration, the principal showed a videotape of a similar dance event at another school that had been posted on Youtube.
Teachers and other staff members met every day after school for the past two weeks to practice their dance steps. To help keep their performance plans secret, they broadcast a daily announcement on the school’s public address system about gathering for “exercise class.”
Choquette, who launched the weekly all-school assemblies when she came on board as principal in September, said the goal of Thursday’s dance event was to build “school spirit and morale.
“At first, people were nervous about getting up to dance,” added Choquette, who also performed in the flashmob. “But they got over that.”
Jennifer Sanders James, the parent of a first grader at Bridge Street, said she had heard “rumors” that something out of the ordinary would be happening at Thursday’s assembly.
Parents are routinely invited to the weekly all-school meetings, “but we heard if you’re planning to come, this Thursday’s would be the one to come to,” she said.
Another parent, Wendy Bajracharya, was observing the riot of color and motion with her son, Alex, 4, a pre-schooler at Bridge Street.
“I think he’s in shock,” she said, with a smile. “It’s wonderful to see the teachers doing this.”
As the dancing went on, students and parents clapped and sang the song’s refrain: “I throw my hands up in the air sometimes, sayin’ a-yo, gotta let go. I wanna celebrate and live my life. sayin’ a-yo, baby, let’s go.”
Then, led by Craig Murdock, the school’s physical education teacher, the entire room was invited to try out the choreography, following a video projected on a back wall.
When first grade teacher Patty Dubiel came off the “stage” to join her class, her students surrounded her for a group hug.
“I love my kids,” she said, as she was mobbed like a rock star.
Was it hard to get up and perform in front of the whole school?
“It was a little nerve wracking but we practiced for two weeks,” Dubiel said. “I think we did OK.”
Her first grade students gave the flashmob better marks than that.
“I liked how they danced,” said Sarah Molnar.
“It was awesome!” said Leah Ruthier.
Even the older kids were impressed.
“That dance is from two years ago, so we knew the song,” said fifth grader Michael Lariviere. “It was kind of fun.”
“It was surprising!” said his classmate, Althy Parigian.