The Big Dreams of the Stampede

Video by Dylan LeMaire

By Megan Perrin

Sitting comfortably in her chair doing tedious school work, English teacher Mrs. Sloan is going through her average routine. But something disturbs her peace. Faintly, her ears can detect distant sounds. It starts out slowly, then progresses; Click, click, tap, tap, stomp, stomp, the on slaughter of noise, of laughter and raised voices fills the adjoining hallway, only shielded from her by a wooden door.

She lets it go at first.

Just kids being kids, no harm. However, soon it gets louder and louder and suddenly thumps against the wall are added into the mix of beats. Mrs. Sloan — patience wearing thin and irritation rising high — peers through the glass window which gives her a clear outlook of perhaps seven high school boys dancing. Carefree they joked and laughed with one another while sharing their respective moves. Using one another as props along with lockers for stands, the hallway was their dance floor and the school was their stage. Though Mrs. Sloan appreciated their skill, she did not appreciate the ruckus they were making or the space they took up. Exiting her classroom, she approached them with authority.

“You want to dance? Go start a club,” said Sloan. “They came to me a couple of days later with a white sheet of paper, said they were starting a club, and they needed a sponsor.”

Since then, Stampede has met each Wednesday 3:45 to 4:45. From the seven founders, the club grows each week.

“The average number of members is about 20, but it’s not always the same kids. Sometimes they have football practice or something else,” Sloan said.

And it’s not just a specific type of kids who participates in Stampede

“There’s a mixture of ethnicities, age, high school class, genders, [and] they’re all accepting,” Sloan said. “They get along too well. They’re laughing the whole time.”

But it’s not just a goof around time; members of the club have a real passion for dancing and are eager to show off their skills.

“I wrangle cats,” Sloan said. “I help them from doing crazy stunts.”

And they’re not biased when it comes to choosing a  type of dance, they’re open to new ideas.

“[We] go from tango to break dance,” Junior Donell Braget, one of the founders of the club, said. “[We’re] trying to interpret salsa and waltz at the same time and choreograph dance.”

Mrs. Sloan doesn’t just host their club either, she also helps to expand the dance mix by looking up YouTube videos and incorporating them into the students’ routines.

“They really had a passion,” she said in response to why she gives so much time and effort to the Stampede Club. “[And this] gives them a place to dance.”

One of the members who has this passion is Braget. When talking about the club, its meanings and goals, his dedication for dance is clearly visible.

“Your own way of expressing yourself, thoughts throughout the day. . . You’re sitting down, stand up. It’s a twenty four hour thing.”

His belief that dance is a medium of the self is apparent in his facial expression, the look in his eyes when he speaks of his passion, his voice, the confidence of what dance can provide for a person, and his physical movements. As music wafts into the hallway from a nearby classroom, though it’s faint, his ears have made the connection as does his body and unconsciously he moves to the beat while still naming the highlights of dance.

“Dance is my art,” Braget said. This club has a big meaning to him personally. Last year was actually the birth of the idea. He and some others would dance in front of the cafeteria. “Tutting Tuesdays, Wild Wednesdays,” he recalled fondly, “and freestyle Fridays.” How it’s progressed into the Stampede club today is thanks to Junior Marques Marks and Junior Darion Richardson. The young men turned the idea into a club and from there everybody who participates is a big contributor.

From the original small group of young men the club has diversified and expanded to a mixture of both genders and an average number of 20 members. But this isn’t enough to feed the clubs ambitions.

“We’re a long way from what we want it to be. We’re trying to get more people to come and get committed,” Braget said. Some of his personal hopes for the club also include, “[having] our own class period next year. A dance class different from the Lariettes. [And] perform for games and stuff like that.”

“[The main goal of this club is] bringing people together. Create the possible out of the impossible,” Braget said.

The club is progressing, and more members are added each week. With the help of Mrs. Sloan, Stampede is picking up speed and gaining ground on their dreams.