Modern dance has always been part of the scene at Riverside-Brookfield High School. Whether through classes within the physical education curriculum or Orchesis, an extracurricular organization that has existed at the school for decades, there’s always been some sort of outlet for dance.

This year, however, dance received a boost in prestige with the introduction of an honors-level dance course within the Department of Fine Arts that brings together the best dancers in the school.

Instructor Mindy Haines, who has taught dance at RB for 14 years, said girls are selected for the class by auditioning. The students must have at least sophomore standing to participate. Not that students always knew they were “on.”

Senior Danielle Kovac said her audition was last year’s Orchesis show.

“You didn’t know you were performing to be judged,” said Natalie Godlewski, another senior.

The new Repertory Dance Ensemble will take the stage in the school’s Little Theater on Friday, Jan. 15 at 4 and 7 p.m. The group will present nine pieces (including several numbers choreographed by senior students) during the show, which will last about an hour-and-a-half. Afterward, there will be a question-and-answer session.

The group will also showcase a work titled “Fused” by Jon Lehrer, who spent a week in November putting students through their paces and teaching them his piece, which premiered in September 2009.

“I saw them experience what it’s like to be in a dance company,” Haines said of the week with Lehrer. “They were under some pressure, but loved the piece he created.”

Repertory Dance Ensemble introduces its 16 students to all aspects of dance, from performance to choreography to direction to composition. The students learn what goes on behind the scenes of a repertory dance company; it’s been an eye-opener.

“I don’t think we knew how much work went into making our show before,” said Kayla Muldoon, a junior from North Riverside.

Haines says that every Monday, the students attend dance technique classes. The rest of the week is devoted to a variety of aspects of dance, from restaging choreography from past performances to studying individual choreographers to focusing on production aspects of the show.

“There’s a real sense of kinesthetic learning going on here,” Haines said, “what it feels like to be totally involved in choreographing a dance and every aspect that goes on in a show.”

The Repertory Dance Ensemble is also trying to spread the gospel of dance a bit, seeking to create fans outside the world of dance itself. The students performed at holiday celebrations in Riverside and Brookfield in December and in February will be going to Ames School to do educational outreach.

Right now the class is exclusively female – the last male dancer in Orchesis graduated in 2008, Haines said. She’d like to include boys in the class, so “performing dance is a great way to introduce the class.”

The recent TV dance craze (“Dancing with the Stars” and “So You Think You Can Dance”) has helped raise the profile of an art, Haines said, whose fans usually come from the discipline itself.

“Unfortunately people who see dance are dancers or know a dancer,” Haines said. “It doesn’t have to be that. It’s for everybody and anybody. It’s just a matter of being exposed to it and discovering your own understanding.”

If you go

WHAT: Riverside-Brookfield High School Repertory Dance Ensemble Winter Concert

WHEN: Friday, Jan. 15, 4 p.m. and 7 p.m.

WHERE: RBHS Little Theater, 160 Ridgewood Road, Riverside

TICKETS: $2 and $4 aat the door. Proceeds go to the Dance for Life Foundation, to help those suffering from HIV/AIDS.

CONTACT: 442-7500